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´╗┐Title: Jungle in the Sky
Author: Marlowe, Stephen
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jungle in the Sky" ***

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                           Jungle in the Sky

                           By Milton Lesser

             _The hunters wanted animals that lived on far
   Ganymede--though not as badly as the animals wanted the hunters._

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Worlds of If Science
Fiction, May 1952. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


The big man looked at home among his trophies. Somehow his scowl seemed
as fierce as the head of the Venusian swamp-tiger mounted on the wall
behind him, and there was something about his quick-darting eyes which
reminded Steve of a Callistan fire-lizard. The big man might have been
all of them wrapped into one, Steve thought wryly, and there were a lot
of trophies.

[Illustration: _The big man looked at home among his trophies._]

He was the famous Brody Carmical, and rumor had it he was worth a
million credits for each of the many richly mounted heads.

"So you're fresh out of school with a degree in Extra-terrestrial
zoology," Carmical grumbled. "Am I supposed to turn cartwheels?"

Steve cleared his throat. "The Placement Service thought you might have
a job--"

"I do, I do. That doesn't mean any young pup who comes along can fill
it. Ever been off the Earth, Mr. Stedman?"

"No."

"Ever been off the North American continent?"

"No."

"But you want to go galavanting around the Solar System in search of
big game. Tell me--do you think they have a Harvard club on every
stinking satellite you'll visit? Do you think you can eat beefsteak
and drink martinis in every frontier-world dive? Let me tell you, Mr.
Stedman, the answer is no."

"Try me, sir. That's all I ask--try me."

"We're not running a school, Mr. Stedman. Either a man's got it or
he hasn't. You haven't. Come back in ten years. Ship out around the
Solar System the hard way, and maybe we can use you then--if you still
remember what you learned about Extra-terrestrial zoology. What in
space ever made you study extra-zoo, anyway?"

"I found it interesting," Steve said lamely.

"Interesting? As a hobby, it's interesting. But as business, it's
hard work, a lot of sweat, a lot of danger, squirming around on your
soft belly in the muck and mud of a dozen worlds, that's what it is.
Just how do you think Carmical Enterprises got where they are? Sweat
and grief, Mr. Stedman." Carmical yawned hugely and popped a glob of
chocolate into his mouth. His fat lips worked for a moment, then his
Adam's apple bobbed up and down.

Steve got up, paced back and forth in front of the desk. "I won't take
no for an answer, Mr. Carmical."

"Eh? What's that? I could have you thrown out of here."

"You won't," Steve told him calmly. "Maybe I'm just what the doctor
ordered, but you'll never know until you try me. So--"

"So nothing! I said this isn't a school."

"They tell me the _Gordak_ leaves on a ten-world junket tomorrow. All I
ask is this: let me ship along as the zoology man. Then, if you're not
satisfied, you can leave me at your first port-of-call--without pay."

Carmical smiled triumphantly. "You know where we space out for first,
Mr. Stedman? Mercury, that's where. I'd love to see a sassy young pup
like you set loose on Mercury in one of the Twilight Cities."

"Is it a deal?"

"It sure is, Stedman. It sure is! But I warn you, we'll expect
perfection. You'll not have a chance to profit from your own mistakes.
You won't have a chance to make mistakes. One slip and you've had it,
is that understood?"

"Yes."

"I'm not going, of course," Carmical said, patting his great paunch and
saying with the action that he was too old and too fat for space. "But
I'll hear all about the way you were stranded on Mercury, among a lot
of Merkies and--"

Steve smiled grimly, said: "No you won't. Next time you see me will be
after the ten-world junket. Whom do I ask for on the _Gordak_?"

Carmical dialed for a bromo, watched it fizz in the glass, drank it,
belched. "T. J. Moore's in charge," he told Steve. "Old T. J.'s a
mighty rough taskmaster, Stedman. Don't say you weren't warned."

"Thanks."

"Well, I'll hear about how you were stranded on Mercury," Carmical
predicted.

"You'll see me after the ten-world junket," said Steve, and closed the
door softly behind him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Pit-monkeys scurried about the great jet-slagged underside of the
_Gordak_, spraying fresh zircalloy in the aft tubes. Spaceport officers
were everywhere in their crisp white uniforms, checking cargo, giving
terse directives to the crew of the _Gordak_, lounging importantly at
the foot of the gangplank.

"Name?" one of them snapped at Steve.

"Stedman."

The man flipped through a list of the expedition's members. "Stedman,
huh? I don't see--oh, here it is, in pencil at the bottom. Last minute
addition, huh, Stedman?"

"Something like that," Steve admitted.

"Well, climb aboard."

And then Steve was walking up the gangplank and into the cool metal
interior of the _Gordak_. His palms were clammy, and he wondered if any
of the crewmen within the ship noticed the sweat beading his forehead.
He'd managed to come this far with a surprising degree of objectivity,
and only now did reaction set in, causing his heart to beat fiercely
and his limbs to grow weak. _That T. J. Moore must have been spawned
in hell_, Charlie had said--and now Charlie was dead. Because of T. J.
Moore? Indirectly, perhaps, but T. J. Moore was responsible. Or, if you
looked at it on a different level, the cut-throat competition between
_Carmical Enterprises_ and _Barling Brothers Interplanetary_ was to
blame. It didn't matter, not really. Charlie was dead. That alone
mattered.

A big man with incredibly broad shoulders, hair the color of flame and
a florid face to match it, came stalking down the companionway. Steve
said, "I wonder if you know where I can find T. J. Moore."

The giant smiled. "You crew or expedition?"

"Expedition," said Steve, extending his hand: "Steve Stedman's my name."

The hand that gripped his was hard and calloused. "I'm Kevin McGann,
boy. Sort of a liaison man between the crew and the expedition, only
they call me the Exec to make everything official. Better take some
advice--don't look for T. J. now. T. J.'s busy doing last minute
things, and T. J. hates to be disturbed. Why don't you wait till after
_Brennschluss_, when we're out in space?"

"It can't wait. I've got to see that Moore knows I'm aboard and under
what conditions, because I don't want to be thrown off this ship at the
space-station. If Moore doesn't like the conditions, Mr. Carmical can
be called. But after we blast off it'll be too late."

Kevin McGann shrugged. "It's only advice I gave you, boy. You'll find
T. J. down on the third level looking over the cargo holds. Good luck."
And McGann took a pipe from his pocket, tamping it full, lighting it
and staring with frank, speculative curiosity at Steve. "Stedman, eh?"
he mused. "The name's familiar."

"You think about it," said Steve, and made his way toward the third
level. Perhaps some of them aboard the _Gordak_ had known Charlie, and
McGann, being the Exec, must have been around a long time.

The third was the lowest level of the _Gordak_, or that part of
the ship nearest the tubes with the exception of the fission-room
itself. Here on the third level were the cages which, in the months
that followed, would hold the big game brought within the _Gordak_.
But the word cage, Steve realized, can be misleading. A rectangular
enclosure, its wall composed of evenly spaced bars--that's a cage.
But the bubble-cages of the _Gordak_ were something else again;
precisely as the name implied, they were huge bubbles of plastic,
complete with remote-controlled airlocks. You could pump in any kind of
atmosphere, from Jupiter's lethal methane-ammonia mixture to the thin,
oxygen-starved air of Mars, and under any desired pressure, too.

And now on the third level a battery of experts was busy checking the
bubble-cages for defects, since a leak _after_ some noxious gas had
been pumped into one of the bubbles could mean death for everyone
aboard the _Gordak_. Steve stood there nervously for what seemed a long
while. He let his gaze rove up and down the third level, but he only
saw the coverall-clad technicians checking the bubble-cages. Kevin
McGann had said he could find Moore here, but unless Moore zipped on
a pair of coveralls himself and joined in the work--which certainly
seemed unlikely--then Moore wasn't around.

       *       *       *       *       *

Someone tapped Steve's shoulder. Startled, he whirled around. A woman
stood there, just behind him, staring at him insolently. She was tall,
as tall as Steve himself, with her close-cropped blond hair peeking out
around the edges of a black cap. She wore what looked to Steve like a
glossy black Martian sand-cape which she let fall straight down behind
her so that it almost brushed the floor. Under it, she wore a brief
pair of shorts, also black, and a halter. She was muscular in that
lithe, feminine way which had grown so popular in the twenty-second
century--the century which had finally seen women come abreast of men
in all sporting activities and surpass them in some which required
special grace and lithe-limbed skill.

"I hope you found whatever you're looking for," she said. She spoke
with a complete lack of warmth which startled Steve for the second time
in a few moments.

She was a beautiful woman, he realized, but she looked so completely
incongruous among the coveralled men that Steve found himself whistling
softly. "I never expected to find a girl here," he admitted. "Not on
this expedition."

"What's the matter, are you old fashioned? This is the twenty-second
century, the enlightened century, remember? There's nothing a girl
can't do if she sets her mind to it. A recent survey shows that
forty-percent of the homemakers in the U.S.N.A. are men, sixty percent
women. Okay, it's only logical that some of the remaining forty percent
of females have some tough jobs, too."

"I read the books of the feminist movement," Steve assured her. "But
it's going to take a lot to convince me of that. Me and a lot of other
people, I suspect."

"Is that so, Mr. Smart-guy? Are you a member of the expedition?"

"Yes."

"Well, anytime you want to hustle down to the gym with me and go a few
rounds, let me know."

"Are you serious?"

"Of course I'm serious."

"Well," Steve said, deciding to change the subject and feeling utterly
ridiculous about the whole conversation, "let's forget it. I was
looking for T. J. Moore."

The woman smiled coldly. "That's me. I'm T. J. What do you want?"

"I--uh--_what_? You're T. J.? You--a girl?"

"Will you please hurry with whatever you want to tell me? I haven't got
all day."

"My name's Stedman." Steve felt his composure returning. The fact that
T. J. Moore was a woman didn't make any difference. But unconsciously,
Steve regarded her as a member of the weaker sex, and a large chunk
of her fearsome reputation vanished because of it. "I wonder, if Mr.
Carmical contacted you--"

"He sure did, Stedman."

"Good, then we can--"

"Maybe you think it's good. I think it stinks. Listen, Stedman, maybe
you think you can pull the wool over my eyes like you did over Brody
Carmical--but you can't. He didn't recognize your name, I did. No kid
brother of Charlie Stedman's going to make trouble for me because he
thinks I was responsible for his brother's death."

"I didn't say--"

"You didn't have to say. I can see it in your face. But get this
straight, Stedman. Your brother died on Ganymede three years ago--of
natural causes, that is, if you can call some of the local fauna
'natural causes'. He worked for _Barling Brothers Interplanetary_, so
I guess the rivalry between them and us didn't help. But no one killed
him."

"I didn't say--"

"Is that all you can say, 'you didn't say?' Try to tell me why you came
aboard the _Gordak_; go ahead, try."

"I'm an expert in Extra-terrestrial zoology, and you needed one. Mr.
Carmical hired me."

"I know that. But I guess I also know a thing or two which Brody
Carmical doesn't. All right, Stedman. You come as far as Mercury. But
one slip, just one slip--"

"Okay, T. J.," Steve said, almost jauntily. "I'll watch my step."

"I'm the _Gordak_'s captain. You'll call me that. Captain--is it clear?"

"No," said Steve, and laughed. The ten-world junket would be a hard,
driving, gruelling ordeal come what might, and he wouldn't kowtow to T.
J. Moore, male or female, here at the beginning. "No," he said again,
forcing the laughter out. "This isn't a military ship, so you won't
impose any arbitrary discipline on me."

The woman laughed too, but it was more effective. "I won't, won't
I? Once we leave Earth, Stedman, everything we do is dangerous.
Everything. I've got to have full authority, every order obeyed at the
drop of a hat. Understand?"

"No."

The woman removed the black cap from her head, and Steve noticed, not
without surprise, that her pale blond hair wasn't close-cropped after
all. It had been piled up inside the cap, and now it spilled down
loosely about her shoulders. Smiling, she dropped the cap to the floor.
"Pick it up," she said.

"Are you kidding? I'm an expert on Extra-terrestrial zoology. That's
what Mr. Carmical hired me for. If you want that hat picked up, better
do it yourself." Vaguely, Steve wondered if Charlie had met the woman
those final days on far Ganymede, had fought with her tooth and nail
for some priceless specimen--and lost, with no witness but the bleak,
desolate topography of the Jovian moon.

The woman turned away from him, called: "LeClarc! LeClarc, come here."

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the coveralled figures approached them, a thick-thewed man whose
muscular strength couldn't be hidden by the baggy clothing. Not as tall
as Steve or the woman, he was broad of shoulder and thick through the
chest. He had a dark face and deep-set black eyes, and a thin scar ran
the length of his right cheek, from eye to chin. "Yes, Captain?"

"Stedman here is new. He questions my authority. I wondered if you'd
like to work him over some--"

"A pleasure," growled the stocky, gnarled Frenchman, and swung his
right fist up in a quick, blurring motion.

Steve didn't have time to parry it. The blow caught him flush on the
mouth and jarred his teeth, sent him crashing back against the wall
where he slid down slowly until he was sitting on the floor. Groggily,
he got to his feet, wiping his bloody lips with the fingers of one
hand. LeClarc, chuckling, hit him once more before he could quite pull
himself together. The right hand slammed against his stomach this time,
driving the wind from his lungs.

He started to fall, but he clawed at LeClarc's middle as he went down,
and held on. Still chuckling, LeClarc cuffed him about the ears almost
playfully, but the open-palmed blows stung him and sent wild rage
coursing through his blood. Clearly, that was the idea. LeClarc was
enjoying himself--but LeClarc wanted him to fight back.

Steve got a hand up in front of his body, palm up, and drove it against
the Frenchman's chin. He felt the neck snap back sharply, heard the
sudden click as LeClarc's teeth met with savage force. Bellowing,
the Frenchman came at him again, fighting southpaw and bringing a
roundhouse left from back behind his body.

But Steve's wind had returned and now he sobbed air in great gulps. He
ducked the wild swing and found the Frenchman wide-open, pounded lefts
and rights to the man's midsection. LeClarc, stunned now, brought his
guard down. Steve was in no hurry. He chased the dazed LeClarc around
an ever-widening circle, was dimly aware that the other technicians had
stopped their work to watch. He jabbed with his left hand, covering
the olive face with purple welts. He held the right cocked but did
not throw it. Soon, though, he could hear the other technicians--who
probably liked a good brawl--muttering. The idea, as they saw it,
wasn't to cut LeClarc up completely but instead, to win swiftly.

Shrugging, Steve realized that the anger he felt for the woman had
blinded him, and after that, he unleashed his right hand, felt the
searing contact with LeClarc's jaw, saw a couple of teeth clatter off
the wall as the Frenchman's mouth flew open. Sagging first at the
knees, then the waist, LeClarc fell to the floor and huddled there
inertly.

Steve turned to the woman, spoke out of fast-swelling lips. "You're the
Captain and I only work here, Teejay," he made the initials sound like
a name. "So I'll take your orders--provided they make sense. That one
about the cap didn't. If you want it picked up, you'd better stoop for
it yourself."

Not looking back, he climbed the stairs toward the second level, wiping
his bloody lips with a handkerchief.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Kevin McGann who showed him around the _Gordak_ after
_Brennschluss_. Newton's second law of motion carried the ship forward
through the near-vacuum of space now, and it would continue that way,
plowing ahead at seven miles per second until it was caught and slowed
by the space-station's gravity. There the bunkers would be reloaded
with slow-fission plutonium for the long dash sunward to Mercury.

" ... and through there you'll find the fission-room," Kevin was
saying. "That's about the size of it, boy. But I warn you to keep away
from the fission-room as long as that red light is blinking. Everything
inside gets pretty hot, and there's enough radiation to kill an army
unless the shields are up. Even then, I'd recommend a vac-suit."

"I'll remember that," Steve said, lighting a cigarette.

"Word gets around a ship like the _Gordak_ pretty fast. I didn't see
your fight with LeClarc, but I sure heard enough about it. There's only
one man aboard ship who can beat the Frenchman in a fair fight, and--"

"You?" Steve wanted to know. But it was hardly a question. It looked to
him like Kevin could take on two LeClarcs with no trouble at all.

"Yes, boy. Me. But now there are two of us, and you've made yourself an
enemy. LeClarc doesn't forget easy, so you'd better be on your guard."

"I'll remember that, too," said Steve, laughing. "But it looks like you
keep warning me about something all the time, Kevin. Why?"

"You're Charlie Stedman's kid brother, aren't you?"

"Yeah. Yeah, but how did--"

"How did I know, boy? It's written all over your face, and Charlie may
have been with _Barling Interplanetary_, but a lot of us knew him.
Charlie was the best, boy."

"Thanks. Kevin, how did Charlie die?"

The giant shrugged eloquently. "I don't know. It was T. J. who found
him out on Ganymede. She was out tracking an anthrovac, and you don't
track anthrovacs in crowds. Well, it seems Charlie had landed for
Barling, and Charlie had the same idea."

"He never told me Teejay was a woman, but he said once she must have
been reared in hell."

Again, Kevin shrugged. "It's open to question, boy. I don't like T. J.,
but I like working for her. You take a man like LeClarc, he'll die for
T. J. All she'd have to do is ask him, and he'd die. You see, boy, big
game hunters don't come any smarter. Trouble is, T. J. knows it and
flaunts it. Also, she's a woman but she's strong as a man and knows
that, too. She dares you to fight her every step of the way, and it
takes a big man to--"

"I thought you said Charlie was the best!"

"And I still do. But a man's got to have some flaws. Maybe he couldn't
take T. J. and had to let her know. The same thing happened to you,
after only five minutes. The gals have won their spurs in every field
which was strictly masculine a hundred years ago. Men tend to resent
that, especially when a talented woman like T. J. let's them know it,
and no bones about it. So, that's T. J."

"Yeah," said Steve, frowning. "That's Teejay."

"What's the trouble, boy?"

"I've got to find out what happened to Charlie, that's all. But
Teejay's going to be a problem."

"The grandmother of all problems, you mean. With all of that, though,
she can still be all female when she wants to be. Maybe Charlie fell
for her--"

"Charlie falling for that cheap, no good--"

"Careful, boy. She's my Captain, and a good one. I wouldn't ship out on
the _Gordak_ if I didn't think so. Careful." Then Kevin smiled. "You'll
learn, in time. Anyway, Charlie was a good-looker and attractive to the
girls, he was romantic--so maybe T. J. fell for him, too. Then they had
a parting of the ways and--"

"Sure!" Steve exploded. "Sure, they fell in love or something only
Charlie forgot to mention in any of his letters she was a woman. You're
barking up the wrong tree, Kevin."

"Maybe. Maybe not. I'm only talking off the top of my head, boy. But
it's worth considering." Kevin jabbed a thick finger against his
calloused palm. "What I'm getting at is this, whether they made love or
not, I don't think T. J. would kill anyone out of cold blood."

"I'll think about it," said Steve, and then a whistle shrilled through
the length of the ship. They were nearing the space-station, half as
far from Earth as Luna, and deceleration came upon them gradually
and would continue to increase until they all had to bed down in the
accel-hammocks for landing.

Unexpectedly, Teejay herself was checking in the members of the
expedition as their two-hour stop over at the station drew to an end.
As he approached her along the gangplank, Steve looked down and saw the
station-men wheeling the small but tremendously heavy plutonium bunkers
under the ship, each compact unit weighing a couple of tons with its
concrete shielding.

"Well, Stedman," said the woman, the broad black sand-cape wrapped
around her completely now, as if only the members of her crew had the
right to see what lay beneath it, "I see you've never watched a ship
getting ready for blast off."

"That's right," Steve admitted. "First trip out."

"You want some pretty sound advice? I'd suggest you stay here at the
station and wait for the first Earthbound ship."

"Thanks," said Steve. "But Mr. Carmical hired me at least as far as
Mercury, so that's where I'm going."

Teejay grinned. "You're a plucky kid, Stedman. All right, Mercury it
is--but LeClarc can do the honors when it's time to see you off the
_Gordak_ for good. He doesn't exactly like you, Stedman."

"I've been told that."

"All right, move along. There's a whole line of men I've got to check
in behind you."

A plucky kid, Steve thought, and laughed. She'd called him that,
although he knew she'd probably have a hard time matching his
twenty-five years. Well, she'd spent her life in space and on the
frontier worlds. Maybe that did make a difference.

Five minutes later, they blasted clear of the space-station on an orbit
that would intersect the Mercurian ellipse at perihelion. From there,
the _Gordak_ would visit Venus, Mars, the planetoid Ceres, the four
large Jovian moons, Titan and Uranus. Ten worlds in all the hunters
would touch on--and each world would offer up its native fauna for the
_Brody Carmical Circus_. Steve wondered if there'd be trouble with
_Barling Brothers Interplanetary_. There generally was. But then he
smiled without mirth, for the chances were he'd never get beyond the
first landing on Mercury, anyway.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were fifty men in the _Gordak_'s crew and another thirty-odd in
the expedition, and a space ship being the complicated, labyrinthine
device that it is, it wasn't too strange that Steve failed to
encounter LeClarc until immediately before landing on Mercury. Then
the _Gordak_'s deceleration tubes had cut in and Steve found the most
readily available accel-hammock in the general lounge. The Frenchman
was stretched out on the cushions three feet from him.

LeClarc said, "This will be a terrible, hot place."

"I know. At perihelion, Mercury's not much more than thirty million
miles from the sun." If the Frenchman wanted to bury the hatchet, fine.

LeClarc strained to raise himself on his elbows against the increasing
deceleration. "Sure," he said, "a hot place. After you foul up,
Stedman, my vote will be to leave you on the hot side instead of giving
you passage to the twilight zone."

The Frenchman was being illogical and pointlessly childish. "I didn't
ask you to fight with me," Steve told him. "Why don't we forget all
about it?"

"If you want to, forget. I, LeClarc, never forget."

"By space, LeClarc--" the voice came from the other side of the lounge
"--then you're a spoiled little child." It was the big Exec officer who
spoke, Kevin McGann.

LeClarc did not answer. Kevin winked at Steve, then set his face grimly
against the bone-crushing deceleration. Fifteen minutes later, they
landed at Furnacetown. The names of the new frontier settlements,
Steve thought with a grin, were as picturesque as the names of the old
Wild West towns.

There was a huge, priceless matrix of ruby far below the surface near
Furnacetown, and the frontier settlement existed to mine from it. But
the place was named aptly, for here on the hot side of Mercury, the
temperature was hot enough to melt tin and lead. A community of half a
thousand hearty souls, Furnacetown shielded itself from the swollen,
never-setting sun with a vacuum-insulated dome and a hundred million
credits worth of cooling equipment. Even so, the atmosphere within the
dome was a lot like New Orleans on a sultry summer day.

The mayor of the town, a man named Powlaski, met them at the landing
field. "It's hot," said Teejay, offering her hand and shaking with the
plump official, man-fashion.

"It's always hot, Captain Moore. At any rate, be happy that you've
beaten Barling here this time."

"Oh, did we? Good. We'll need three asbestos suits, Powlaski. I never
did trust plain vac-suits on the sunward side of this boiling mess of a
planet. Say, has anyone got a cool drink? I'm roasting."

Someone wheeled out a portable refrigerator and the synthetic
gin-and-orange stored therein tasted to Steve's thirsty lips almost
like the real thing. Then LeClarc, who had ventured into one of the
squat buildings with Powlaski's lieutenant, a middle-aged woman,
returned with three heavy asbestos suits draped ponderously over his
arm. Their combined weight was perhaps two hundred pounds, but it
became negligible under Mercury's weak gravity.

"We're ready," he said, extending one of the suits to Teejay and
helping her slip it on over her shorts and halter. This was the first
time that Steve had ever seen her without the black cape, which seemed
a sort of affected trade-mark.

"Three suits?" Steve demanded. "What for?"

"The third one's for you, Stedman," the woman told him. "I know your
job is to see that the game stays alive in our bubble-cages, but I
don't think it would hurt if you had a look-see at the stone worm in
its own environment."

"That's not what I meant," Steve told her. "Why LeClarc?"

Teejay shrugged, zipping up the suit. "Because I said so, that's why.
Also, LeClarc's something of an expert on the inner planets and he goes
wherever I do, anyway."

"Sort of a bodyguard," the Frenchman purred, strapping a neutron gun to
the belt of his asbestos suit. "Hey, who's got those helmets?"

And then Steve felt them slipping the thick, clumsy helmet over his
head. Kevin stood nearby and the Exec looked like he wanted to say
something, but Steve's helmet had snapped into place and from that
point he could only talk by radio--and over the crackling interference
of the swollen sun, at that.

Moments later, he'd stepped through an airlock at the side of the
Furnacetown dome and plodded out on the surface of Mercury.

       *       *       *       *       *

On Venus there was the thick, soupy atmosphere and the verdant tropical
jungles. On Mars, the rusty desert and the ruins of an eon-old
civilization. But on Mercury you knew at once that you trod upon an
alien world. At perihelion, the sun swelled to almost four times its
size as seen from Earth, and because Mercury's tenuous atmosphere had
boiled off into space half a billion years ago, the sky was black. The
sun had lost its spherical shape, too. Great solar prominences licked
out at the blackness, and the visible corona seemed to swell and pulse.

Underfoot, Steve could feel the crunchy ground powdering beneath
his asbestos boots with every step. And far off toward the horizon,
a jagged ridge of blood-red mountains bit at the black sky like
festering, toothless gums.

Before long, Teejay's voice sang in Steve's earphones. "Over here,
you boys." And Steve could see her crouching, shapeless in the loose
asbestos suit, off to his left. The sun's heat had parched a long,
snaking crack in the surface and Steve lumbered over to it clumsily,
letting his shadow fall across the crevice. "Those stone worms are
umbra-tropic," he called, and waited.

"I don't wonder," said Teejay, looking up at the sun through the smoked
goggles of her helmet.

The stone worms, Steve knew, were attracted by darkness--hence they
generally dwelled in the deepest crevices, although a man's shadow
might bring them to the surface. He'd never seen a stone worm, but he'd
read about them and seen their pictures.

"You'll see something very unlovely," Teejay predicated. "The stone
worm isn't a carbon-basic animal, but a silicate creature with a
sodium-silicon-nitrogen economy. It's about four feet long and kind of
like some ghastly white slug. It--hey, Stedman, get on your toes!"

The worm was coming.

It poked its head up out of the crevice first, and then the slug-like
body followed, curling quite instinctively until the whole thing lay
in Steve's shadow. Four feet long and a foot across at the middle, it
looked like the product of nightmare. The head was one huge, lidless,
glassy eye--with a purple-lipped mouth where the pupil should have
been! The mouth opened and shut like that of a fish, but when Steve
lifted the monster by its middle and brought it out into the sun,
the lips puckered completely shut and the white slug began to thrash
dangerously.

But under the influence of the sun's heat it soon subsided. Trouble
was, Steve thought vaguely as they made their way back toward
Furnacetown with the quiescent monster, the sun's heat did not subside.
Probably, it was his imagination, but the sun had seemed to become, if
anything, stronger. He looked at the others, but they merely walked
forward, completely unconcerned. Maybe he'd tired himself subduing the
stone worm, for he knew that might seem to intensify the heat.

Inside his asbestos suit, Steve began to sweat. It did not start
slowly, but all at once the perspiration streamed down his face and
body.

It was then that his left leg began to burn. Down below the knee it
was, a knife-edged burning sensation which became worse with each
passing second. Someone had heated a knife white-hot, had applied its
sharp point to the nerve-endings of his leg--and then twisted. It felt
like that.

Screaming hoarsely, Steve fell, watched through burning eyes as the
stone worm commenced crawling laboriously away. It was LeClarc who went
after the worm and retrieved it, but Teejay knelt at Steve's side and,
surprisingly, real concern was in her voice when it came over the radio.

"What's the trouble, Stedman?"

"I don't know," Steve gritted. "I'm hot all over--and my leg feels like
it's on fire. Yeah, right there--ow!--go easy!"

Teejay frowned or at least Steve guessed she frowned by the way she
spoke. "There's nothing much we can do about it, Stedman. Seems to be a
hole--just a pinprick, but a hole--in the asbestos. It's a wonder you
weren't screaming bloody murder before this. How's the air?"

It _was_ getting hard to breathe, Steve realized, but dimly, for his
senses were receding into a fog of half-consciousness. Something hissed
in his ears and he knew Teejay had turned the outside dial of his
air-pump all the way over. It made him feel momentarily better, but the
pain still cut into his leg.

"I've got the worm," said LeClarc. "But what happened to him?" He
asked the question innocently--too innocently.

Teejay didn't answer. Instead: "Can you walk, Stedman?"

"I--I don't think so."

"Then I'll carry you. But remember this: if we get you back all right,
you can thank the twenty-second century feminist movement. Can you
picture an old-fashioned gal slinging a man over her shoulder and
toting him away to safety like a sack of grain? Here we go."

And she got her arms under Steve's shoulder, tugging him upright and
swinging him across her back in a fireman's carry. He felt in no mood
to question her motive, but he could sense the triumph in her as if she
had said, "See, I'm as strong as a man, and don't you forget it."

In spite of himself, he couldn't help responding to the unspoken
challenge. "Sure," he said, "I can thank the feminist movement, but
more than that I can thank Mercury's light gravity, Teejay. We're lucky
I don't weigh more than fifty pounds here."

An hour later they arrived back at Furnacetown, but by then Steve was
unconscious from the pain.

       *       *       *       *       *

"How are you feeling, boy?" It was Kevin McGann, the battered, unlit
pipe clamped tightly between his teeth as he spoke.

Steve sat propped up in a bed in the _Gordak_'s infirmary, his left leg
wrapped in bandages from knee to ankle. "Pretty good, I guess. Kind of
weak, but there's no pain."

"You're lucky the Captain got you back here in time. Four inches of
your calf was cooked third degree, but she carried you back here
soon enough to cut it away before deep decomposition, and spray on
syntheplasm. You'll be as good as new in a week, and no scar, either.
Thanks to the Captain, boy."

"Yeah," Steve admitted. "Sure. But what I want to know is this: how did
it happen?"

Kevin shrugged his massive shoulders. "I won't make any accusations,
boy, not without positive proof. But I took the liberty to examine
your suit, and it looked to me like someone had punctured a small hole
almost all the way through. The heat did the rest."

"You mean LeClarc?"

"I never said that. But LeClarc was the one who got the suits, so
he--more than anyone--was in a position to do something like that.
Further than that I won't carry it. This is not an accusation."

"Suits me," Steve told him. "And thanks, Kevin. But after this,
Frenchie had better watch his step. Are we out in space again?"

"Yes. Passed _Brennschluss_ forty-eight hours ago."

"What?"

"Sure. They had you doped up for two days, till the syntheplasm had a
chance to set."

"How soon can I get out of bed?"

"Depends. If you don't mind hobbling around on crutches, today
probably. If you want to wait till you can walk, four or five days.
What's your hurry, boy?"

"I've got to take care of that stone worm, remember?"

"Say, that's right! No one knew what to do, so they suspended it in a
deep freeze until you could go to work. A hideous brute, I might add."

"Will you ask the doctor to give me some crutches? Swell. First,
though, I'd like a good meal. And listen, Kevin--I guess Teejay saved
my life, at that. Want to tell her I'd like to see her?"

"Of course," said Kevin, and left the white-walled infirmary, grinning
from ear to ear.

By the time Teejay arrived, Steve was eating his first solid meal
in two days. "Hello," he said. He almost found himself adding,
"Captain"--but he checked the impulse just in time.

"McGann tells me you're ready to get to work today."

"That's right."

"Good. That stone worm won't stay in ice indefinitely--not when it
lives on the sun-side of Mercury."

"Teejay, I want to--well, I want to thank you for saving my life."

The woman opened her cape, reached inside, took a pack of cigarettes
from an inside pocket and puffed on one until it glowed. "Don't thank
me," she said coolly. "It really isn't necessary. You're the only
extra-zoo man aboard, Stedman, so we needed you. I'd have saved a
valuable machine under the same circumstances."

"Well, thanks anyway."

"There's one thing more, Stedman. As far as I'm concerned, you haven't
proven yourself yet. So the same conditions apply to our next landing
point."

"Where's that?"

"Venus, of course. Do you think I want to play hop-scotch all over the
Solar System? Well, you finish your meal and give that stone worm a
nice comfortable bubble to live in." And Teejay departed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Later, after he'd evacuated the air from one of the bubble-cages
and increased the temperature to seven hundred degrees Fahrenheit,
after he'd supervised a slow warming process for the worm and seen it
deposited, still drowsy, in the bubble with sufficient quantities of
silicon-compounds to keep it well fed, Steve hobbled with his crutches
to the general lounge. Teejay sat there with half a dozen of the
Venusian experts, for the hunt would be much more protracted on that
teeming jungle-world. The woman stood up at once and crossed the floor
to Steve. "How's the worm?"

"Fine." He always felt a little edgy and on his guard when the woman
spoke to him.

"And how's the extra-zoo expert's bum leg?"

"Coming along, I think."

Teejay turned to the six men seated around the lounge, said: "This
is Steve Stedman, our extra-zoo man--at least temporarily. Stedman,
Phillips knows more about amphibians than any man alive, Ianello is our
arboreal expert, Smith ferrets out the cave-dwelling mammals--we hope,
Waneki goes floundering around after sea-monsters, St. Clair is--"

Then something buzzed shrilly on the adjacent wall, and Teejay flipped
a toggle switch. "Captain here."

"Radio from Earth, Captain. Mr. Brody Carmical himself."

"Is that so?" said Teejay, her eyebrows lifting. "Give me a circuit."
And, a moment later, "What's the trouble, Brody?"

The big man's voice came through faint and metallic over more than
fifty million miles of space. "Plenty, T. J., Barling decided to start
in the middle this year. Some of our--er, contacts told us his ship's
rocketing for Ganymede, and fast. You'll have to get there first if you
can, naturally."

"We'll get there," said Teejay, quite grim, and cut the connection.

Steve had time to think one thought before he was swept along in
the general rush, crutches and all, after the woman galvanized into
activity. She might take orders from Brody Carmical, but she even had a
way with the big man, making him cow to her--perhaps unconsciously.

Teejay was yelling and pointing, it seemed, in all directions at once.
"Hey you, Ianello, shake a leg down to the fission-room and tell 'em to
start straining. Smith, get me Kevin McGann on the intercom. Waneki,
you can forget all about those Venusian sea-monsters and tell the docs
to be ready for plenty of acceleration cases. You better bed down
right now, Phillips, you're not as strong as the rest of us, not with
sixty years of junketing behind you. Hello, McGann? Listen, Mac, I
want the entire crew assembled in General inside of ten minutes. Yeah,
expedition too. Everyone but those boys down in fission. And tell your
orbit-man to figure a way to get us off this trajectory and on a quick
ellipse from here to the Jovian moons. Yes, that's what I said--the
Jovian moons."

She paused long enough to take a breath and turn to Steve. "Well,
Stedman, we'll be dropping down over your brother's grave on Ganymede
before you know it. Maybe then you'll be able to remove that chip from
your shoulder."

"Me? From _my_ shoulder? Sister, you've got things backwards."

But the woman pivoted away, and Kevin's voice bleated over the
intercom: "Crew and expedition--all to general lounge on the double!
You boys in fission stay put, Captain's orders. This is urgent."

Almost before Kevin's voice had stopped echoing through the corridors,
LeClarc popped into the lounge. "You wanted me, Captain? May I help?"

"I wanted everyone. Everyone can help. Just sit still till the rest of
'em get here."

LeClarc appeared hurt, but he took a seat in glum silence. In twos
and threes the members of the crew began to drift in, wild rumors
circulating among them in whispers. Finally, LeClarc counted noses and
told his Captain that everyone except the fission crew was present.

Teejay nodded, stepped to the center of the floor. She removed her cape
and dropped it, discarding it so suddenly and yet with such a polished
flourish that a complete silence fell upon the large room almost at
once.

She paced back and forth, her bare, lithe limbs flashing under the
green-glowing wall panels. "You've all come to know that cape," she
said, her voice strident and alive. "It's a sort of affectation I
have. But it's not necessary. Like everything that's not necessary, it
must be discarded, at least temporarily. Men, we're in serious trouble."

Just like that, inside of a few seconds, she had them eating out of the
palm of her hand. She went on to say that Barling's ship had already
blasted off from the Earth for Ganymede, how, unless their efforts
here on the _Gordak_ were Herculean and then some, Barling's ship
would reach Ganymede first. "And you all know what that would mean,"
she continued. "Like the elephant of two centuries ago, the Ganymeden
anthrovac is the one solid necessity for any circus sideshow. But the
anthrovacs have a way of going into hiding when they're disturbed.
So, if Barling gets to Ganymede first, we've had it. We can all
start looking for jobs after that, do you understand? I want full
acceleration from here to Ganymede, as soon as we can get the new
orbit plotted. Nothing but the immediate problem--to reach the Jovian
moons before Barling--nothing else matters. If I tell you to work two
shifts and go without sleep one night, you will do that. If I decide
that a man must go beyond the shieldings in fission, he'll climb into a
vac-suit and hope for the best. It's going to be like that, men, and I
can't help it. I crack the whip and you jump. Any questions?"

She stood dramatically, hands on hips, somehow poised on tip-toes
without straining, a tall, impressive and quite beautiful figure.

"Yes," said one of the orbiteers. "I have a question. Can I get to
work on the new orbit at once?"

There were hoarse shouts of approval, some applause and a scattering of
deep-throated laughter. Steve watched Teejay walk off her improvised
stage, complete master of the situation. If it were humanly possible
for the _Gordak_ to reach Ganymede before Barling, they'd do it.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the weeks which followed, Steve learned something of what the big
Exec officer had meant that first day he had spoken about Teejay. She
drove her men relentlessly and some of them may have resented it. But
she drove herself as well, and once when a crewman had gone beyond
the shieldings to repair the mechanical arms which regulated the flow
of powdered plutonium fuel from the bunkers and had emerged with a
serious case of radiation sickness, Teejay donned a vac-suit and went
in herself to finish the job.

Most of the men liked her. Some, frankly, did not. But all of them knew
they served under a captain as good as any.

Two days before landing on Ganymede, Teejay gathered her chief
lieutenants for a final planning session. Kevin was there, and LeClarc,
and a tall, wraith-thin man with a bushy head of white hair named
Simonson, and Steve. Teejay spread a chart out and peered down at
it intently. "This is Ganymede Northeast," she said, indicating the
circled, central area of the map. "It is here that, for some reason,
the anthrovacs gather. And here inside the circle is an area of one
thousand square miles which Mr. Simonson has marked off--yes, Stedman,
the red square. We'll be operating there. If the Barling ship has
landed ahead of us, we can assume the same for them."

Teejay paused to light a cigarette, then crushed it out after her first
puff. "The darn smoke gets in my way when I try to think," she smiled,
and went on, "Anyway, here's the square. We'll be using the crew and
the expedition--everyone aboard ship--because we're in a hurry. Simply
put, we'll be a bunch of beaters to drive the anthrovacs together at
the center of the square. Then, well, then it's up to Mr. Simonson and
Stedman. Any questions?"

"Yes, Captain," said LeClarc. "Just how do we get the anthrovacs aboard
ship?"

"Don't ask me. But you might ask Mr. Simonson."

The bushy-haired man named Simonson grunted. "Umm-mm. There are several
ways. We could set up elaborate traps, such as Thorndyke employed two
years ago, and--"

"Can't," Teejay objected. "No time."

"Why don't we just clobber them?" LeClarc suggested. "A few might die,
but we'll get the specimens we want."

Steve shook his head. "You don't know your anthrovacs. Chase them and
they'll try to run away. But hurt them--just hurt one of them so the
rest of them can see--and they'll swarm all over you until either all
the men or all the anthrovacs are dead, or both. No, there's another
way."

"What's that?" Teejay leaned forward, chin cupped in hands, definitely
interested.

"Anthrovacs are non-breathers. Most gasses won't hurt them, but you can
give them a good, old-fashioned oxygen jag with the slightest whiff of
pure oxygen."

"I've heard of that," Simonson said.

"Sort of like getting them drunk, isn't it, boy?" Kevin wanted to know.

But LeClarc wasn't satisfied. "I still say we ought to clobber them. We
can't waste time experimenting with any crazy jags."

"It's no experiment," Steve told him coldly. "It works."

"I still say we ought to--"

"Clobber them, I know," Teejay finished for him. "If there's any
clobbering to be done, LeClarc, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, we're
trying Stedman's plan. Any further questions?"

And, when no one spoke: "Good. Mac, I want you to let Mr. Simonson
and Stedman pick three men to help 'em. You're to divide the rest of
us into groups of half a dozen each, with each group serving under a
leader. I'll give each leader a designated area in that square, so
there won't be a lot of bumbling around when we land on Ganymede.
LeClarc!"

"Yes, Captain?"

"Take yourself a group of three idle technicians and check all the
vac-suits. If there's any trouble, make sure it's repaired before we
land. What are you gawking at me like that for?"

"I only thought--"

"What? What did you think? Speak up, man!"

"I thought you would have a job of more import for me. Had you, for
example, decided that we ought to clobber--"

"Clobber, clobber, clobber! Will you shut up and get to work?"

"Yes, Captain." And more than a little stooped of shoulder, LeClarc
left the lounge.

Teejay didn't pause for breath. "You, Stedman! What's so funny? What
are you laughing about?"

"Nothing. It's just the way LeClarc--"

"Forget it, before _you_ get clobbered."

       *       *       *       *       *

Ganymede.

After the landing, an unreasoning fear gripped Steve tightly. It
wasn't anything he could put his finger on, but he felt it gnawing at
the fringes of his mind, probing, seeking, thrusting for a way in.
There was nothing to be afraid of, and Steve smoked one cigarette
after another while the six-man parties disembarked to take up their
beater-stations on the edges of the square.

Ganymede, he recited to himself, is the largest satellite in the Solar
System. 664,200 miles from Jupiter, it has a diameter of thirty two
hundred and six miles, or bigger than the planet Mercury and almost
as large as Pluto. It swings around Jupiter in a little over seven
Earth days and in appearance the moonscape's enough like Luna to be a
twin-brother, except for fat, bloated Jupiter hanging in the sky.

What was there to be afraid of? Steve didn't know. His brother had died
on Ganymede--and the circumstances of Charlie's death still bordered
on the mysterious. Well, he'd see for himself about that. Did the fear
crawl around the edges of his brain because he thought Teejay was
responsible? But that didn't make sense, for to a certain degree he'd
thought that all along. Unless the appalling thought of having to fight
Teejay and her whole loyal crew had taken hold of him unconsciously.

"What are you moping about, boy?"

"Huh? Oh, Kevin. Nothing much, I guess. I--"

"You look to me like you've seen a ghost. What is it, scared?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess so."

"So what? Buck up, boy."

"I don't want to be scared, Kevin."

"Who does?"

"That's not what I mean. It's one thing to say that if you aren't--"

"Who isn't? Don't look at me, boy. And didn't you watch all the men
trooping outside with the blood drained from their faces, and their
eyes sort of big and too bright behind the face-plates? We're all
scared."

"But why?"

"Mean to say you spent so much time on zoology and forgot about other
things? Like, for instance, Ganymede-fear?"

"Huh? How's that?"

"Everyone is afraid, Steve. Everyone. Whenever a man gets near
Ganymede, he suddenly becomes afraid. It's some sort of a
psychological or maybe para-psychological phenomenon and none of the
medicos could ever figure it out. It isn't the kind of fear that
paralyzes, boy, but still, it holds on all the time a man's on Ganymede
and it doesn't leave until he blasts off again. Didn't you ever hear
about that?"

"No. That is, I knew it happened somewhere, but I forgot where."

"Well, that's all there is to it, boy."

"All! Don't you think it's enough? Something lurks out there, something
makes people afraid, and we've never been able to find out why, but you
say--"

Teejay came up and smiled at them, but there was something grim about
her smile. "You can always tell when someone comes to Ganymede for
the first time. He's jumpier. Just relax, Stedman. By the time they
start beating the anthrovacs in toward the _Gordak_ you'll be feeling
better--and raring to go to work with that oxygen-jag stunt of yours,
too." And she added, "Say, have you been watching your stone worm?"

"He sure has," Kevin told her. "He took me down there yesterday and
that worm's been growing fat on all the sand he's fed it. Sand--for
food, that's what the worm eats. Imagine how that would settle the
over-population problems on Earth if people, too, could eat sand."

"Yes, and then--" Teejay was speaking again--but words, just words, and
Steve stopped listening. It occurred to him all at once that they were
engrossed in their meaningless conversation for one reason only--to
keep the fear from their minds. If you thought about something else,
the fear would retreat at least in part, and if you could hold a
conversation about everything and nothing, that was even better.

Steve almost jumped off the floor when a metallic voice blared forth
from the loudspeaker, echoing and re-echoing in the near-empty room.

"Captain! Captain, this is Moretti, Group Seven."

"Go ahead, Moretti," Teejay said into the mike. "I'm listening."

"Who the devil's on radar, Captain?"

"Why--no one! We forgot."

"There's a ship coming down. We can see it plain as day out here."

"What ship?" Teejay asked softly, but they all knew the question was
totally unnecessary.

Moretti's voice jumped an octave as he cried: "It's Barling!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Within ten minutes, all the beaters had been called in. Barling's big
ship, the _Frank Buck_, snorted back and forth angrily on its landing
jets.

"Are they gonna land or ain't they gonna land?" someone said as Kevin
broke out the neutron guns and saw that every third man had one.

"Depends on their boss," said Kevin. "If he figures we can be scared
off, he'll land. Otherwise, maybe he'll go away."

"Not that little stinker," Teejay told him. "Not Schuyler Barling. He
won't go away. Will the fact that we're here first matter? It will
not, for Schuyler knows we can't prove it. You ought to know better
than to hope for that, Kevin. No, we can figure that Schuyler will move
in on us."

"What happens then?" Steve demanded.

Teejay shrugged her bare, beautiful shoulders. "That I don't know.
Schuyler may be a stinker and may be predictable, but he's not _that_
predictable. Hey, it looks like the _Frank Buck_ is coming down!"

The big ship, Steve saw, was doing precisely that. Its jets had been
cut, and the ship fell like a stone. Twice its length separated it from
the rubble-strewn pumice when the pilot kicked his jets over again, and
something seemed to slap the _Frank Buck_ back up toward the starry
sky. The result was a first-rate landing.

"That would be Schuyler showing off," said Teejay wearily. "He must
have been born in a tube and weaned on jet-slag, and he sure lets you
know it."

Fifteen minutes later, Schuyler Barling and three of his officers
entered the _Gordak_.

Barling got out of his vac-suit first, a tall, handsome man of about
thirty, with short-cropped blond hair, pale blue eyes and petulant
lips. "Captain Moore," he said, bowing slightly from the waist. Making
fun of Teejay.

"Mr. Barling." As ever, the woman seemed cool and unruffled.

"With us," said Schuyler Barling, "it's in the family. I work for my
father. Obviously, it means something to me whether he succeeds or
not. But you, Captain Moore, you're a hired hand. You work for Brody
Carmical, on a paycheck. Therefore, your loyalty could not possibly be
as strong as mine, and--"

"Get to the point!"

"We arrived here on Ganymede almost simultaneously. One of us will have
to leave."

"It didn't look simultaneous to me."

Barling ignored her. "Yes, one will have to leave, because the
anthrovac is frightened off easily and unless a hunt is carried on with
the utmost precision and timing, no one will catch any anthrovacs."

"Go on," said Teejay. She spoke quietly, but Steve knew the woman well
enough to realize her temper was coming to a boil, inside.

"My _Frank Buck_ got here first," Barling told her blandly. "Therefore,
you will leave."

"That's a stinking lie!" Teejay cried. "We were here first and you know
it."

"Who can prove it? The _Frank Buck_ landed first." Barling's hand
flashed down to his waist, came up gripping a neutron gun. "If we have
to, we'll force you to leave."

Teejay stood with hands on hips, facing him. "I know I'm not conducting
myself like a lady, but then, this is the twenty-second century," she
said, smiling--and struck out with her balled right fist. It bounced
off Barling's jaw with savage force and the man stumbled back against
the wall and crashed to the floor, his neutron gun clattering away.
Barling shook himself, tried to rise. He got to hands and knees, then
fell forward on his face.

Teejay whirled on his officers. "All right, get him out of here! Come
on, move."

       *       *       *       *       *

The three men looked at each other. None of them did anything.

"You see, boy?" said Kevin, grinning. "That's our Captain and we'll
fight for her. She won the beauty pageant five years ago in Cerestown,
and she can fight like a man. She's a woman for the stars, and we're
proud to--"

"Shut up," said Teejay. "That won't get us anywhere."

By now, Barling had stirred, had come up, dazed, into a sitting
position. He rubbed his jaw, winced. "Assuming we return to our ship,
we still won't leave Ganymede. Not without our anthrovac."

"Nor will we."

"But you had to hit me! You had to flaunt your--"

"No one told you to draw your gun."

"--flaunt your Amazonian prowess."

"Stop sniveling, Schuyler. I think we'll have to reach some sort of a
compromise, but I'll dictate terms, not you."

"Yes?" Barling growled up at her. "Who says we'll obey?"

"Oh, get up off the floor! You look so silly, sitting there and rubbing
your chin."

Barling stood up, retrieving his gun but holstering it. Kevin watched
him, toying with his own weapon--not pointing it at anyone in
particular, but tossing it back and forth idly from hand to hand.

"Give us twenty four hours," said Teejay. "We'll look for our
anthrovac. In that time, none of your men is to leave the _Frank
Buck_. After that, you get twenty four hours, and we're confined to
the _Gordak_. Then us, then you. And so on, till one of us gets his
anthrovac. Then he pulls out and the other is left here. Is it a deal?"

Barling considered, said: "Well, yes--with one change. _We_ get the
first twenty four hours."

"No."

"Then you can forget your deal, Captain Moore."

"Well, then let's toss for it." Teejay reached into a pocket of her
cape, flipped a coin to Steve. "Here, Stedman. You toss it."

"Who gets to call?" Barling demanded.

"Do you want to?"

"Well--"

"Good. Then I will. Ladies first, you know. Go ahead, Stedman."

Steve tossed the coin, and Teejay cried: "Heads!"

Palming the coin, Steve flipped it over on the back of his left hand,
peered at it. Staring up at him was the metallic likeness of Angus
MacNamara, first man to reach the planet Mars. "Heads," said Steve, and
one of Barling's officers came over to verify it.

Barling shook his head stubbornly. "How do I know it isn't a phony, a
two-headed coin?"

Teejay glared at him. "That's insulting, Schuyler."

"Well, I'd like to look at it. How do I know--"

"You don't. But I said it's insulting. So, if you want to see the coin,
you'll have to fight me!"

"Never mind," said Barling, climbing into his vac-suit. "You get first
try." And all of them garbed in their vac-suits once more, the men of
the _Frank Buck_ departed.

"Get those beaters out again!" Teejay was calling into her microphone,
and Kevin grasped Steve's arm, said:

"Go ahead, boy. Look at the coin."

Steve did. It had two heads.

And later, Teejay said to him: "Listen, Stedman. All the beaters are
out now, but frankly, I don't trust Schuyler."

Steve said he did not blame her, and Kevin was there to nod his red
head.

"So, Stedman, the beaters have their jobs to do. That's almost
everyone. But temporarily at least, it leaves you and Mac here with
nothing to do."

"That's true," said Kevin.

"But not for long, Mac. Schuyler may try something, I don't know what.
You two are probably the strongest men on this ship. I know what you
can do, Mac--and I saw a sample of Stedman at work when he had that
little run-in with LeClarc. All right: you two hop into a couple of
vac-suits. That is, if Stedman's ready to fight for us if he has to--"

Steve chuckled. "I don't go around carrying two-headed coins, Teejay,
but I know a rat when I see one. I'll go, and your friend Schuyler
better not try anything." Almost, he was surprised at his own words.
Teejay had a way of commanding respect, and if he didn't watch himself,
he'd be talking like Kevin soon. Well, perhaps the woman merited it....
His thoughts took him that far, and then he remembered Charlie. "I'll
go," he said again, almost growling.

"But you still have a chip on your shoulder--well, never mind. I'll
expect quarter-hourly reports from you two."

"You'll get them," said Kevin, and climbed into his vac-suit.

       *       *       *       *       *

Incredibly, Steve found himself out on the bleak, desolate surface of
Ganymede, walking with Kevin past the long, silent length of the _Frank
Buck_. And here, outside the confining walls of their spaceship, the
Ganymede-fear seemed stronger. Steve felt it as something palpable,
clutching at his heart and constricting it, bringing sweat to his
forehead and clouding the inside of his helmet with moisture.

Fear--of what?

Not of the frontier world itself, surely. Not of some unknown menace
lurking out among the craterlets and ringwalls. No, for while Ganymede
was not yet as familiar as Mars or Venus, mankind still had explored it
extensively. There were the strange anthrovacs, animals which looked
like over-sized and less brutish gorillas but which were not protoplasm
creatures and which took their energy directly from sunlight and cosmic
radiation. But that was all--no other life existed on Ganymede, and the
anthrovacs on their frigid, airless world were something of an oddity.

Then what caused the fear? And was the fear responsible in any way for
what had happened to Charlie?

"Hey, Steve--snap out of it!" Kevin's voice, floating in thinly on the
intercom.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, Kevin. Sure. It's that fear, sort of gets you out
here. You can't help it."

"I know. A ship seems to cut it off to some extent, boy. But it's
around, lurking, waiting to get you."

"What do you mean, waiting to get you?"

"Well, not directly. But it makes you make mistakes. Men have died that
way--paying so much attention to the fear that they didn't pay enough
attention to whatever was happening."

"Kevin, do you know anything about how Charlie died you haven't told
me?"

"Maybe. Maybe not. It's kind of vague, boy. Teejay went out alone and
when she came back--why, she looked scared. That's common enough on
Ganymede--everyone looks scared. But Teejay looked puzzled and confused
also, and that's not like her. She wouldn't talk much for a time, and
when she did she just said she'd found Charlie Stedman, your brother,
dead."

"Where?"

"What do you mean, where? Out here on Ganymede, naturally."

"No, I mean exactly where. What was done with the body?"

"That I don't know," said Kevin, and Steve could picture him frowning
inside his helmet.

"Well--listen, Kevin! Do you hear something?"

"Hear something? How can you hear anything on Ganymede, with no air to
carry it? Except on the radio, of course. I hear you, but get a grip on
yourself, boy."

"No. I hear something. There it is, louder. My God, Kevin! My God--"
And clumsily in his vac-suit, Steve began running away across the
pumice.

"Hey, come back! Back here, you crazy fool--" Kevin charged after him,
taking long, ungainly strides in the light gravity. But Steve was
quicker and soon the distance between them increased and Kevin realized
he wouldn't be able to overtake Steve at all.

"Come back! What do you hear, boy? At least tell me that."

Steve told him, and ran on. Amazed, Kevin lumbered back toward the
_Gordak_.

"But what made him do it?" Teejay demanded, later.

"I told you all I know, Captain. He said he heard something and started
running. I chased after him, couldn't catch him. He told me what he
heard."

"What?"

"Well, you won't like this, because it doesn't make sense. But he said
he heard his brother--calling him. Charlie Stedman, calling."

"Charlie Stedman is dead." Suddenly, Teejay was curt, pre-emptory.

"That's what I thought, too."

"Forget it. It's the Ganymede-fear, Mac. Somehow it got to Stedman
stronger than it got to most people. Maybe his brother was hit that
way, too. Maybe, right now, Stedman is off his rocker, running out
across the pumice somewhere, shouting his brother's name into the
soundless void of space."

"We'll have to find him," said Kevin.

"How can we, Mac? He's got air for five or six hours, and Ganymede is
big."

"I'm going to take a set of shoulder-jets and go looking for him,
Captain. I hope you won't try to stop me. I'm going either way."

Shrugging, Teejay went to a cabinet, handed Kevin a pair of
shoulder-jets, which he strapped at once to his vac-suit. The woman
took another suit and another pair of jets. "Once I heard voices out
here on Ganymede, too," she said. "So did Charlie Stedman. They killed
Charlie and they almost killed me. Enough's enough, Mac. I'm going with
you."

       *       *       *       *       *

The ringwall was not very large. Slowed by his vac-suit, a man might
cover its diameter in half an hour. But Steve did not traverse the
circular area. Instead, he climbed the ringwall laboriously and then
made his way down, tumbling and sliding, to the rocky floor of the
shallow crater.

The voice came from within it--from within the crater. It could not be!
He told himself that more than once. The rock of Ganymede itself might
carry sound, but you'd feel it only as a throbbing through the soles of
your boots, for the vacuum of space which encroached on all sides could
not transmit sound-waves.

That was science. That was elementary. But the voice whispered in his
ears, ebbing and flowing, first loud, then soft--and science be damned.

Charlie was calling. _I am Charlie Stedman. I am Charlie Stedman_--That
was all, but it was enough. Charlie's name, and Charlie's voice.

"It can't be happening," Steve said, aloud, and heard his own
voice roaring inside the helmet. It drove the other voice, the
impossible voice, out for a moment, but it returned. Around the inner
circumference of the ringwall Steve ran, seeking a source for the
impossible. Sobbing, stumbling, he plunged ahead. It was only when he
returned to his starting point, a needle-like pinnacle of rock, that he
realized his supply of air would be exhausted in three hours.

       *       *       *       *       *

"He couldn't have gone much farther than this, Mac."

"We've got plenty of air, Captain. I'm not giving up--"

The two figures soared on spurting jets a hundred feet above the
surface of Ganymede. When Teejay went higher every few moments, she
could barely make out the two spaceships, far away to the left.
Occasionally she saw the beaters working in teams of six, cumbersome
tanks of oxygen strapped to their backs.

"Did you hear the voice, Mac?"

"No."

"Had Stedman been drinking?"

"That's ridiculous. The boy was with us, and you saw for yourself."

"True. And I've said that the voices of Ganymede are no strangers to
me, anyway. Maybe I was trying to rationalize."

"We'll see when we find Steve."

"_If_ we find him. The fear can make you do crazy things out here, Mac.
Like going for too long without sufficient oxygen."

"That's what I'm worrying about."

       *       *       *       *       *

A phonograph needle caught in one groove, spinning out its brief
message over and over again--that was the voice. _I am Charlie
Stedman._ And the ringwall might have been the record, Steve thought
bitterly, except that it was utterly deserted. He hadn't covered its
entire rock-strewn area; an army of searchers would be necessary to do
that. But he had seen enough to convince him that--

The thought fled.

Coming toward him over the floor of the ringwall was a huge anthrovac,
walking erect with a shuffling gait. Charlie's voice grew louder.

       *       *       *       *       *

"It's no good, Mac. We can't find him."

"As soon as we turn back he's as good as dead."

"Our air won't last forever," Teejay said.

"He's got even less."

"Ten more minutes?"

"All right, ten. But why did you come out here with me if you're ready
to give up so easy?"

"Who said I am? I'm trying to be practical, Mac. Listen, I saved
Stedman's life once already--and stayed out on the hot side of Mercury
longer than a person should, too. I like Stedman, but if we ever find
him, better not say that or I'll break your neck, hear? So I want
to find him, but I don't want to sacrifice your life or mine in the
attempt. Is that clear?"

Kevin said that it was.

A moment later, Teejay climbed higher. Half a thousand feet above the
surface of Ganymede she circled. Abruptly, she leveled off at a hundred
feet again, said:

"There's something over there, Mac. In that ringwall."

"What?"

"I don't know. Movement. A big figure and a little one. The big one
seems too large for a man, but the smaller--well, let's go."

       *       *       *       *       *

The anthrovac paused a dozen yards from Steve. There had been nothing
hostile in its movements to begin with, and now it might have been a
statue for all the activity it displayed. From crown of head to small,
hand-like feet, it stood almost a yard taller than Steve, but it did
not have the great-muscled girth of a gorilla. Instead, it looked quite
manlike, except for the incredibly broad shoulders, the thick, matted
hair covering its entire body, the too-long arms, the nine feet of
height.

Did the voice emanate from it?

Now that the creature had approached him, Steve wasn't sure. The voice
continued, pulsing and throbbing in his ears like the Ganymede-fear
itself--_but in his ears_. Not from the bleak terrain around him, and
certainly not from the anthrovac.

"I'm going crazy," he said, aloud, driving the voice away temporarily.
"No. No, I'm not, because I realize it too soon. A crazy man doesn't
realize it and doesn't warn himself about it--certainly not at the
outset." But did that mean the voice had any real existence? How could
it?

_I am Charlie Stedman...._

Smiling bleakly, Steve picked up a loose chunk of rock, tossed it at
the anthrovac. The creature merely swung its huge body gracefully
at the hips, avoiding the missile. Then it stooped, found a stone
for itself, hurled it at Steve. He ducked, feeling completely and
tremendously foolish. He should have been prepared, for the anthrovacs
are playful and can mime almost any human action.

He did not duck in time. He felt the stone _thunk_ against his helmet,
peered with horror at the glassite inches from his face until he
saw that it hadn't cracked. Grinning now, he shook his fist at the
creature, watched it duplicate the motion with its great hairy hand. It
was a game, Steve told himself, a lot like the meaningless conversation
Teejay and Kevin had had to dispell the Ganymede-fear.

_But if the anthrovac could mime human actions, perhaps the anthrovac
could also mime voices!_ That would necessitate telepathic powers,
naturally. But the anthrovac, like many denizens of terrestrial forests
and tundras, changed its habits immensely in captivity. A captured
anthrovac, one which had been reared with one of the circus troupes,
could never tell you what a wild anthrovac was like. And a wild
anthrovac, somehow living on airless Ganymede and taking its energy
directly from cosmic and solar radiation, might be able to do anything.

_I am Charlie Stedman...._

Steve carried the thought to its logical conclusion. Suppose an
anthrovac--_this_ anthrovac which faced him now--had somehow heard
Charlie speaking. Charlie might have been introducing himself to
someone: "I am Charlie Stedman."

But the hypothesis wasn't much more than a bubble, and it burst
completely when Steve remembered he was the only one who could hear the
voice.

"Hey, Stedman! You trying to kill yourself?"

Steve whirled, looked up. Two figures, no more than vaguely human
in their cumbersome vac-suits, hovered over him, jetting around in
circles. The anthrovac had seen them too--and now, apparently alarmed
by the twin forms floating just out of reach, the creature turned and
bounded away over the uneven terrain.

"What gave you that idea?" Steve called into his intercom. "The
anthrovac wasn't looking for trouble."

"I don't mean that, stupid." Teejay had a way of jarring him back to
reality with a few words. "I mean, how much air have you left?"

Steve looked at the gauge. "Enough to return to the _Gordak_, provided
I get on my horse."

"We'll walk with you, then," said Teejay, and dropped to the ground at
his side. "I think I'll hold onto your arm, too. You're liable to go
wandering again, and we might not be able to find you."

Kevin alighted, switched off his jets. "How about the voice, boy? Do
you still hear it?"

"Why--no! But I did a minute ago, until the anthrovac ran away."

"That's peculiar."

"There's a lot that's peculiar out here on Ganymede, Kevin. I think--"

"Stop thinking and start walking," Teejay told him.

Less than two hours later, they reached the _Gordak_. A vac-suited
man met them at the airlock, and Steve saw LeClarc's face through the
glassite helmet.

"I'll bet you were worried," said Teejay.

"Sure," LeClarc answered, drawing a neutron gun from his belt. "See, my
Captain, I'm so worried I can hardly think straight. Will the three of
you please turn around and march over to the _Frank Buck_?"

They were too stunned to do anything else.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Don't mind me," Kevin said, within the _Frank Buck_. "If I'm confused
it's merely because I can't believe this. Not you, LeClarc, not you."

They'd been ushered into the main lounge of the _Frank Buck_, a ship
of about the _Gordak_'s dimensions, but two or three years older.
LeClarc stood there with his neutron gun, watching them carefully. In
a few moments, Schuyler Barling joined them, a greasy salve covering
the discoloration on his jaw. The jaw looked painfully swollen too,
and Barling rubbed it speculatively. "I won't forget this," he growled
briefly to Teejay, then turned to LeClarc. "Kevin McGann I know, but
what about this man?"

"Stedman?" said LeClarc. "You'll want him, because he's the extra-zoo
man on the _Gordak_. If you took McGann and the woman alone, they still
might be able to do their work on Carmical's ship. But with Stedman
your prisoner as well, their hands are tied over there."

"What is this?" Teejay demanded defiantly. "What's the meaning of--"

"Will you be quiet and let me do the talking?" Barling interrupted her.
"It was LeClarc who radioed and told me your coin had two heads. If you
wanted to play the game that way, I wasn't going to stand by and let
you. So--"

"So," LeClarc took up the thread for him, "we got together, Mr. Barling
and I."

"But you, LeClarc," said Kevin. "You'd jump through a fire-hoop into a
pit of acid if Captain Moore told you to."

"Would I?" LeClarc chuckled softly.

"Yes. Yes, you would."

"Perhaps there was a time I'd have done that, McGann. Perhaps. But then
I thought the Captain needed me, and wanted me to help her, too. Now,
with you and Stedman--well, LeClarc isn't so important, is he?"

"So that's it!" Kevin roared. "You're jealous. Not jealous the way a
man should be, when he loves a woman, but jealous because you believed
Captain Moore had discarded you--had decided you weren't such an
essential cog in the _Gordak_ machine."

"Shut up." LeClarc took a quick step toward Kevin and hit him, hooking
his left fist at the bigger man's jaw. Kevin staggered but did not go
down. Bellowing, he charged at LeClarc, but the Frenchman waved him off
with the neutron gun.

"Stop it, LeClarc!" Barling snapped. "I didn't have you bring
them here to make a shambles of the lounge. Just stand off in the
corner--that's right, there--and watch them. I'll do the talking."

"You realize, of course," Teejay told him calmly, "that this is
kidnapping."

"Is it? Who is to say? You never entered the _Gordak_; LeClarc met you
within the airlock. For all your crew knows, the three of you are out
on Ganymede somewhere--with not much air left. After a time, they'll
have to give you up as dead. With the Captain gone, and the Exec, and
the expert on Extra-terrestrial zoology--their expedition won't amount
to much. It looks to me like old man Carmical will be without a circus
this year, unless he resorts to a strictly terrestrial shindig."

"What happens then?" Teejay wanted to know.

"Well, I'll be frank with you. I haven't decided. I can't simply return
you to civilization, of course."

"Of course," Teejay echoed him acidly.

"Then you'd be able to holler 'kidnapper'. It would seem that you give
me only one alternative. Ah--excuse me a moment."

A trio of men had entered the lounge and the leader, a stocky man of
about thirty-five, was beaming. "We've got three," he said.

"Splendid, splendid. In that case, nothing remains to keep us on
Ganymede."

"Chief, I'm sure glad of that. This place can give you the heebies, and
you never know why. Those three anthrovacs should be a fine core to
build your circus around, though."

"Three anthrovacs?" Teejay cried, her composure fading for the first
time. "You've got three anthrovacs?"

Barling nodded. "LeClarc here was good enough to tell us Stedman's
plan. A first-rate idea, as you can see, only we were able to carry it
out. Frankly, I wasn't so optimistic at first."

"Let's get back to us," Teejay suggested. "You were saying...?"

"Umm-mm, yes. There's only one alternative, and much as I regret--"

"What is it? What's the alternative?"

"Please, must I say it? I think you know, and there's no need for me
to--"

"No, I want to hear it."

"Suit yourself," said Barling. "The only solution is this: we'll have
to eliminate you."

"When?"

"The sooner the better. But Captain Moore, you're making me feel--"

"That's all I wanted to know!" Teejay cried, and hurled herself at
Barling. "We might as well try to escape while we still have a chance."

       *       *       *       *       *

After that, things happened almost too fast for Steve to follow. Kevin
got the idea at once, charging at LeClarc before the Frenchman had
time to gather his wits. The neutron gun hissed violently, searing a
three-inch chunk out of the ceiling. But then LeClarc was struck by two
hundred pounds of Kevin McGann, and went down before the onslaught.

Something exploded against Steve's jaw and he did a quick flip and
landed on his back. He'd hardly had time to declare himself in the
battle, when one of Barling's men had jumped him. Now the man came down
atop him, flailing with both fists, but Steve chopped at his face with
short, clubbing blows and scrambled to his feet while the man caught
his breath.

Steve didn't wait, plunging toward the man with murder in his eyes--and
failed to reach him. An arm circled his neck from behind and he was
dragged to the floor again, by the second of the three anthrovac
hunters. He rolled over, saw Kevin and LeClarc off to his right,
standing toe-to-toe and slugging. And beyond them, Teejay was cuffing
Barling around the lounge with lusty, man-sized blows. Barling went
down under the onslaught, falling at the woman's feet, but then the
third hunter had grasped her swirling black cape from behind, throwing
it over her head and tripping her. She fought blindly as she went down,
taking the hunter with her; and with Barling, they became a tangled
melee of thrashing arms and legs.

Steve rolled out from under the second hunter, but the first one met
him halfway and pole-axed him down to the floor again with a hard right
hand. Sobbing, clutching at the man's legs, Steve began to pull himself
upright and got a knee in his face. He went down again, and this time
everything in the room receded into a vague, shadowy fog.

When Steve could see again, there was still no order to the chaos.
He hadn't lived a violent life like Kevin or Teejay--such things were
not part of his background, although he'd boxed in college and won the
light-heavyweight championship, too. But there was something different,
something elemental about a free-for-all brawl.

LeClarc lay on his back, supine. He looked out of it for the duration,
which still set the odds at four to three against the trio from the
_Gordak_. Right now Kevin held his own with the two hunters who'd
done Steve in, at least temporarily. But that couldn't last, for both
were big, muscular men. And Teejay? She was a woman, so perhaps the
odds were even worse. Steve smiled grimly as he clambered to his feet
to help Kevin. Teejay was a woman, but she was the new twenty-second
century woman, and proud of it. The third hunter kicked and thrashed
helplessly on the floor as she held him in a head-scissors and at the
same time fended off Barling who was crawling around them and looking
for an opening. Teejay, definitely, was an asset.

Steve got to hunter number three quickly, pulling him off Kevin and
straightening him with an uppercut. After that, it was a set-up. Steve
pounded once and then again with his left hand at the man's midsection,
then finished by crossing his right and feeling it crunch against the
man's jaw.

"Now I see how you could take care of LeClarc that first day!" Kevin
yelled, and promptly polished off the other hunter with a blow that
lifted him completely off the floor.

As one, they whirled around to face the other side of the room.
Barling and his henchman had finally got the upper hand. Teejay
lay on her side, her hands behind her back. Not unconscious, she
was completely spent, and an almost equally exhausted Barling was
attempting to tie her hands with the black cape. The hunter sat there,
dull-eyed, watching them. It was Kevin who lifted the hunter and hurled
him away, and when Steve rolled Barling over and pushed him against the
wall, the man did not resist.

Teejay climbed to her feet, unsteadily. "I--guess I'm growing--soft,"
she panted. "Maybe--I don't know--maybe training and muscle-toning
from--infancy--aren't the answer. A gal just isn't cut out for rough
and tumble fighting." Her hand flashed up to her forehead, the back of
it resting against her brow. "Ooo, Steve, catch me--"

She fainted in his arms.

Somehow, they got Teejay into her vac-suit. The walls of the lounge
were sound-proofed, and the struggle had attracted no one. Silently
they made their way out of the lounge and through the corridors of
the _Frank Buck_, heading for the airlock. Steve toted Teejay over
his shoulder, and remembering Mercury, felt very good about it. He
ached all over from the fight and he knew he'd need some mending. But
she'd called him Steve, and that--suddenly and ridiculously--was most
important.

"What's going on here?" A crewman met them in the corridor and bellowed
his challenge.

Kevin raised the neutron gun he had taken from LeClarc.

He never used it.

A fraction of a second later, the _Frank Buck_ blasted off from the
surface of Ganymede, and sudden acceleration threw them all to the
floor. As Steve was to learn later, no hands were at the controls. No
_human_ hands.

       *       *       *       *       *

"This, roughly, is the situation," began Barling, pacing back and
forth, speaking out of swollen lips and averting the right side of
his face with its puffy cheek and blackened eye. "We are all in this
together, and--"

"You hypocrite!" cried Teejay. "Six hours ago, you wanted to kill
us. Now, because something unexpected pops up, you change your mind.
Temporarily, for as long as you can use us, is that it?"

"No. If we can get out of this I'll forget about killing, provided you
forget about kidnapping."

"Well...."

"You haven't any other choice, Captain Moore."

"He's right," Kevin admitted. "But what's the trouble we're in, Mr.
Barling?"

"Six hours ago you three jumped us and almost made your escape. But the
_Frank Buck_ took off; suddenly, without warning. _None of my men was
at the controls._"

"That doesn't make sense," Steve objected.

"I didn't think so, either. I almost don't know how to explain it, what
I've seen with my own eyes after my men held you in detention here in
the lounge."

"Why don't you begin at the beginning?" Teejay said, and yawned.

"Don't be funny. Somehow, the anthrovacs escaped from their bubbles
and--"

"What?" This was Steve, more than slightly incredulous. "Anthrovacs
are mild creatures and unless they're attacked they won't do anything
violent."

"That's what I thought, Stedman. I don't know what to think now. The
anthrovacs escaped--and freed all the other animals. We've been out
longer than the _Gordak_, we have a couple of dozen prize specimens.
Lead by the anthrovacs, they've taken over the ship."

"Now you're joking," Teejay told him. "They're all brainless, those
creatures, except for the anthrovacs."

"They _were_ brainless, Captain Moore. But not now. Now they behave
logically, with a purpose, and they've taken over the _Frank Buck_ from
stem to stern--all except those animals that need a special sort of
atmosphere to breathe, and they've remained in their bubbles.

"Otherwise, the animals took over. And I suppose you can imagine--the
crew was too astounded to resist, especially since the anthrovacs
had gotten hold of neutron guns and seemed to know how to use them.
Result--we've all been disarmed, we're prisoners aboard our own ship,
and bound for I don't know where."

"Sounds crazy to me," Teejay said, and stalked toward the door.

Steve took a quick step after her, but Barling held him back. "Let her
find out for herself, Stedman. Then maybe we can talk sense."

Teejay opened the door, stepped out into the corridor. Tensely, Steve
waited, ready to bolt after her at the first indications of trouble.
But what he heard was a yelp of surprise from the woman, and then she
came running back into the lounge, slamming the door behind her.

"A Martian desert cat!" she cried. "It didn't do anything; it just
stood there, all ten feet of it, looking at me!"

"Then you believe me?" Barling demanded. "As I see it, we must have
been struck by some cosmic radiation which mutated the animals, and--"

"No," Steve told him bluntly. "That's impossible. First place, any
such change would have to be selective. _All_ the animals wouldn't be
affected. And more important, mutation takes generations to manifest
itself. You never see the change at all in the original creature. Look
at Earth, way back in the early years of atomics. Genes were mutated at
those two island cities--Nagasaki and, umm-mm, I forget the name of the
other. Anyway, genes were mutated, but it took over two hundred years
for those mutations to become apparent. See what I mean?"

"I do," said Barling. "And that's precisely why I think we ought to
fight this thing together. I had an idea, you helped me with it. We can
continue like that."

"Well," Steve nodded, "we have a first-class problem on our hands. We
can't do anything about it until we know what's going on--only the
mystery's a little deeper than you think. First, I heard a voice out on
Ganymede. My brother's voice."

"Your brother's?" Barling scratched his head. "Oh, wait a minute! You
must mean Charlie Stedman who was killed out here a few years back?"

"Yeah, Charlie. You can't hear voices on Ganymede, but I heard them,
inside my head. Also, don't forget the Ganymede-fear. I'd say the three
things will fit together when we begin to learn what's going on."

"Provided we can find out," Teejay told him. "You can keep your
scientific mysteries for a while, Steve. What I want to know is this:
where are we going, and why?"

"Ask your desert cat out there." Kevin's laughter was sour.

"What we need is a good turncoat," Teejay assured him. "Someone who can
go out among the animals and ask questions. I'm joking, of course, but
if anyone could do it, it would be that rat, LeClarc."

Steve frowned. "That's not as funny as it sounds. Has anyone seen
LeClarc since the fight?"

"No!" Kevin slammed fist against palm.

Steve was about to answer, but quite suddenly the lights blinked out.
Somewhere outside, a dozen animals roared their fear. Within the
lounge, Kevin commenced cursing lustily and an involuntary moan escaped
Barling's lips.

The darkness was the bleak, utter black of deep space. Further, Steve
realized, the steady humming of the fission engines had ceased.

Minutes later, impossible pain gripped him and flung him, sobbing to
the floor. He'd never felt anything like it, a gripping, grinding,
twisting torment which tried to turn him inside out. He heard the
others dimly, reeling about the lounge and falling to the floor, and in
the darkness someone fell near him.

"Steve? Steve, is that you?" Teejay....

"Yeah." The pain seemed to come in waves, and Steve gritted his teeth
when the second turned out to be worse than the first. He reached out
with his hand, found Teejay's and squeezed it. "Hold on, kid. It can't
last forever."

"It better--not."

When her hand tensed in his, then relaxed, Steve knew she'd fainted.
And soon after that, his own senses reeled and deserted him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Teejay's hand was still tightly clenched in his when he regained
consciousness. A dozen feet from them, Kevin sat up, shaking his head
slowly back and forth. Schuyler Barling lay stretched out on his
stomach.

"Whatever happened," Kevin growled, "I didn't like it."

Teejay extricated her hand, looked at Steve, smiled. "It's still awful
quiet outside."

It didn't remain that way for long. As if Teejay's words had been a
signal, a voice boomed at them from the wall-microphone. "We have
landed. All humans will please file out into the main corridor in an
orderly fashion and make their way to the airlock."

Schuyler Barling sat up groggily.

Teejay said, "I could swear I know that voice from somewhere."

"And I," Kevin told them. "It's familiar, though I can't place it."

Steve felt his heart pounding. The voice was Charlie's.

       *       *       *       *       *

They stood on a flat, grassy plain which stretched halfway to the
horizon and then began to undulate into low hills. And far off,
shrouded by purple mists, a range of mountains loomed distantly.

Purple mist; a purplish cast to the sky; a fiercely bright blue sun.
"What world is this?" said Kevin.

The crew of the _Frank Buck_--a hundred men--stood in a long, thin
file outside the ship. They'd balked at first, but silently, the
three anthrovacs had ferreted them out with their neutron guns, never
uttering a sound, merely motioning with the weapons. Of the other
animals Steve saw nothing, but within the corridors of the _Frank Buck_
he'd encountered a sand crawler and a desert cat, both dead.

The seconds fled, became minutes. When half an hour had passed, the
crew became restless and some of them ambled off on the grassy plain
until one of the anthrovacs herded them back. The _Frank Buck_'s Exec,
a short, wiry man, strode within the ship and came out a few moments
later, scratching his head. "I can't understand it," he said. "None of
the instruments work. I thought we could just pile back into the ship
and blast off, but apparently someone has other ideas."

Someone did.

Someone came striding across the plain, a small dot of a figure at
first. He came closer.

Steve ignored the anthrovacs, ran forward. "Charlie!" he cried.
"Charlie!"

The man was shorter than Steve, and stockier. His eyes searched Steve's
face briefly, and he said: "Should I know you?"

"Should you! I'm your brother!"

"Interesting, but quite impossible."

The words hardly registered, and Steve babbled on, "We thought you
were dead. It was Teejay here who reported back to Earth saying you'd
died on Ganymede. Now you're alive and--" Abruptly he whirled, turned
to Teejay. "You lied, damn you! Here's Charlie, see? Charlie was never
dead. But you said--"

"I said Charlie was dead." The woman met his gaze levelly. "He was. I
know a dead man when I see one. He was dead."

"But--"

"But nothing. I don't know who this is. I can't explain it. That has
nothing to do with what happened on Ganymede years ago."

"Yes? Then what did happen? Why did Charlie write once that you must
have been spawned in hell? You never did want to tell me what happened
on Ganymede, did you? Maybe Charlie can."

"That is my name, Charlie Stedman. It is the name this body has always
had, although when I do not inhabit it I assure you I am not Charlie
Stedman," the stocky man said. "You see, the original inhabitant of the
garment--the body--was destroyed. The name applied to the body as well
as the inhabiting mind. The language remained engraved in the brain
cells, and impersonal parts of the memory, too. In that sense, I am
Charlie Stedman. Does it satisfy you?"

"Hell, no," said Steve, bewildered. Mystery had been piled upon
mystery, with no solution in sight. And grim confusion turned to
grimmer anger as he faced Teejay once more. "All right, start talking.
Just how did you find Charlie? And what made him hate you like that?
Talk, damn you!"

"Okay, I will. But I don't know why Charlie hated me, and that's the
truth. I only met him once or twice and--unless it was Schuyler here.
Hey, Schuyler!"

Barling joined them. "What do you want?"

"Answer this question: do you make a practise of poisoning the minds of
your crew against me?"

"Well, I don't know what you mean by poi--"

Teejay grabbed a handful of his shirt and twisted, constricting the
collar about his throat. "Answer me," she said. "And no run around."

"I--I guess so. It's only business, Captain Moore. The more they hated
you, the more they'd be willing to fight you in the hunt every step of
the way."

"How about Charlie Stedman?"

"I don't remember. Probably, it was like that."

Teejay flung him away from her. "Does that satisfy you, Steve?"

"For that part, yes. But what about the rest of it?"

"Not much to tell. I was out alone on Ganymede, a few miles from the
ship. I thought I heard voices, sort of inside my head. I went forward
to explore, just like you did, and also like you, I almost didn't have
enough air to get back. Especially since I found your brother on the
way."

"And he was dead?" As he spoke, Steve looked at his brother, standing
right there in front of him, and wondered if anyone ever asked a more
impossible question.

"Yes. He was dead. I don't know how he died, but I placed my ear
against the chest of his vac-suit. The heart-beat is amplified through
it, you know. But there wasn't any. After that, I ran back to the
_Gordak_, and I had barely enough air to make it. I reported Charlie's
death, of course."

Charlie's death. Well, she sounded sincere. But there was Charlie,
standing two paces to her right and apparently listening to an account
of his own demise.

       *       *       *       *       *

Charlie cleared his throat. Quite evidently, it wasn't Charlie at
all, but Steve could think of the man in no other way, for down to
the smallest physical detail, he was Charlie. "That will suffice," he
said. Again, it was Charlie's voice, but expressionless. "Enough of
bickering. You will all march with me toward those hills, and we have a
long journey before sunset."

The nine-foot anthrovacs took up their positions one on each side of
the column and one behind it, and no one disobeyed. Once Steve looked
back over his shoulder and saw the purple mists had almost completely
swallowed the _Frank Buck_.

Then the irony of the situation struck Steve and he smiled--almost.
He'd come to Ganymede after anthrovacs. But he'd left the satellite
under an anthrovac guard! Fine thing. A mighty hunter was he! Clear
across the universe to be bagged by his own game!

Obviously, Steve thought as they marched on, the blue day-star was
not Earth's sun. Somehow, in a matter of moments, they'd left the
Solar System entirely. He knew that theories had been advanced about
traveling through something called sub-space, something which could
make flight to the farthest stars almost instantaneous, since sub-space
existed outside the space-time continuum. And that wrenching from one
spatial plane to another might explain the tremendous pain they'd
undergone, too. But surely the _Frank Buck_ had never been equipped
for such flight. The whole concept of sub-space flight was strictly
theoretical and hadn't even reached the drawing-board stage.

Then how had it happened?

Kevin had some vague, half-formed ideas on the subject, and he let
Steve know about them. "It's a puzzler, boy. They took us a long way,
space alone knows how far. I don't pretend to know why; we can't figure
that out, not yet. But I know this: they could not have done that
without help. Someone had to bring the ship."

"The anthrovacs?" Steve suggested.

"Not the anthrovacs. For all their handling neutron guns and taking the
_Frank Buck_ over, they're just big apes to me. Maybe they were able to
take the ship off Ganymede, but no more than that. They had help, boy,
and from the inside."

"Who? Who do you mean?"

"I'm not sure I know. But look at it this way. The _Gordak_ wasn't
taken, the _Frank Buck_ was. Why? I'll tell you why, or at least
I'll tell you one possibility. There were scores of men on each
ship, but while the _Gordak_ had only one animal--the stone worm you
got on Mercury--the _Frank Buck_ had dozens. All right so far, boy?
Well, here's what I think: _whoever took the ship wanted both men and
animals._"

"I still don't understand."

"I'm not sure I do, either. Let's get back a little. The _Frank Buck_,
not the _Gordak_, was taken. Strange, isn't it, that just before that
happened LeClarc bolted our ranks and joined the enemy! Does that mean
LeClarc had to be on the _Frank Buck_ before anything happened? And
where'd he get to, anyway? I haven't seen him since the fight; I don't
think anyone has. Now, a man spends years idolizing a woman--I've been
around, and I think I told you LeClarc would have done anything for
Captain Moore. Suddenly, he gets sulky because he's out of favor with
her, and decides on a double-cross.

"It smells bad, boy. Sure, he was sulky, but the LeClarc I knew would
have come crawling to Captain Moore, anyway. This one didn't." Kevin
paused, ran a hand through his red hair. "Maybe it means he isn't the
same man. Maybe it means he's something like that thing which calls
itself your brother. That's not Charlie Stedman and you know it.
Trouble is, boy, you can't admit it to yourself."

"I won't argue about it," Steve replied. "But you're off the beam
there. Charlie doesn't remember me, but LeClarc's memory seemed fine."

"That's true, Steve. I can't explain it, except like this: whatever
happened to both of them, we don't know a thing about it. Maybe it
works in a different way on different people. Maybe because Charlie was
dead first, his personal memories were a loss, but LeClarc's weren't
because he might have been possessed alive."

"Possessed?"

"Yes, possessed. Oh, not by spirits, that's for sure. But possessed
nevertheless. I won't say the anthrovacs were possessed, for we don't
know enough about them to begin with. But look at those other animals
now, the ones that died. You won't deny that something took over their
brains?"

"Damned right I won't. But I still don't see how it all adds up."

"Nor do I," said Kevin. "Unfortunately, the brutes seemed to have
perished in transit from Ganymede to here, wherever here is. It
could be that the strain on their brain-tissue, with sentience and
intelligence taking over where before only sentience had resided, was
too great."

Kevin paused, then concluded: "whatever the reason, whatever the reason
for all of it--I think you'll find LeClarc knows all about it."

The blue sun had neared the horizon and the purple mists had become
cool and chilling at journey's end. It was then that they saw LeClarc.

       *       *       *       *       *

The column of men had traversed the grassy plain, had climbed steadily
through the region of undulating hills. And suddenly, hidden until the
last moment by a rise in the terrain and spread out at the foot of
the higher mountains, they saw a city. Circular, walled, pleasantly
pastel-tinted despite the purple gloom, it lay before them, lights
which might or might not have been electricity winking on to dispel the
gathering darkness.

And there, at the city's gateway, stood LeClarc. LeClarc--and not
LeClarc. The man seemed as much LeClarc as the short stocky figure who
led the procession seemed Charlie Stedman. "Welcome to Uashalume," he
said, and Steve pulled up short at the sound of his voice. There was
something of the volatile Frenchman in it, but something else which was
alien.

"You will be billeted in temporary quarters for the night," LeClarc
continued. "You will of course have no need for such quarters after
tomorrow's bazaar."

"Of course, my foot!" Teejay cried petulantly. "See here, LeClarc,
we've been getting orders and directives without knowing what they mean
or why they were given or--"

"Must you be so impatient?" LeClarc's smile was almost devoid of mirth.
"You've come one hundred thousand light years, and surely you can wait
until morning."

"Light years!" This was Steve.

And Kevin, "One hundred thousand!"

The academic problem didn't bother Teejay as much as the human one. She
said, defiantly, "What he needs is a good swift kick."

LeClarc failed to wait for that, or anything else. Chuckling, he led
the first anthrovac through the high-arched stone gateway and the
other two creatures herded the humans in after him. Charlie--although
obviously, the man was not Charlie--went on ahead with LeClarc, and
Steve had to restrain Teejay with a few terse words.

The purple mists cloaked the city completely now, and as they plodded
along a wide roadway, Steve half-saw figures watching them from the
darkness. He could not make the figures out, however, and he heard
nothing but the sounds their feet made on the stone roadway.

Presently, they came to a smaller, divergent path which led back to the
base of the wall. Here, in deepest shadow, was their destination--a
squat, rectangular building carved from stone. A gate creaked and
clanged open before them; they streamed through, weary after hours of
forced march; the gate clanged resoundingly behind them. Charlie had
not entered with them, nor LeClarc, nor the anthrovacs. It took Steve
only a moment to discover the gate had been securely fastened from the
outside.

"I guess we bed down here for the night," he said, grinning ruefully.

Teejay shrugged, wrapped the black cape tightly about her. It was cold
and damp in the one large chamber which took up the interior of the
building. In the center of the place stood a stone table, and on it a
gas lamp which flickered and spluttered and cast grotesque shadows as
the men wandered about. There were no beds, no furniture of any sort
except for the table. And the two small peep-hole windows were fifteen
or more feet off the ground.

The crew of the _Frank Buck_ gathered in small, anxious knots and
whispered grimly among themselves. After a time, men circulated between
one group and another, and finally one of them, evidently designated as
spokesman for the rest, approached Schuyler Barling.

He seemed nervous, frightened, unsure of himself. "Captain Barling, my
name's Steiner, and the fellows thought that--well, that I might speak
for them. We don't know what's going on, but we do know this much: we
don't like it."

"I can't blame you," said Barling.

"Point is, sir, we want you to do something about it."

"Eh? Me? What can I do?"

"We don't know that, sir. But a spaceman's a peculiar individual; some
say he's got characteristics you won't find elsewhere, and one of them
is this: he has complete confidence in his captain."

"Why, thank you, Steiner."

"Me, I work in fission. I like to have that confidence and the rest of
the men, they like to have it too. When they lose it, they're kind of
at a loss. We don't want to think we've lost it here, sir."

"What do you want me to do?" Barling was restless, fidgety, twisting
his hands together.

"Lead us, sir. Tell us you can get us out of here. Tell us we must be
prepared to fight behind you and maybe to die, but lead us."

"But how can you expect me to lead you when I don't know what's
happening? How can I plan for escape when I don't know what it is we
have to escape from?"

"There's talk among the men, sir," Steiner went on. "Some of them are
for you, although I'll be frank. There aren't many, sir. But they need
a leader, all of them agree on that. What they want to know is this:
are you their man?"

Barling squared his thin shoulders arrogantly. "I'm the _Frank Buck_'s
Captain."

"The _Frank Buck_ lies behind us in those purple mists, sir. Could you
find it? Finding it, could you make it run again?"

"I don't know."

"Then the fact that you captain the _Frank Buck_ doesn't mean much.
We've decided that leaves us without a leader, sir. We need a leader."

Barling smiled coldly. "Are you trying to tell me the men have selected
you?"

"No, sir. I'm not. But the majority of the men have their choice--and
that is Captain Moore. We who have been with the _Frank Buck_ longest
have heard a lot of bad talk about Captain Moore, but that changes
completely whenever we make planetfall. The talk in all the frontier
towns is all in Captain Moore's favor. When there are decisions to be
made, sir, we'd like her to make them."

"A woman? When all your lives may be at stake?"

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the three hunters who'd fared so poorly in the lounge fight
strode forward, saying: "Look at yourself, sir. You're beaten and
battered, and that's Captain Moore's work. Did her sex matter then?"

Barling reddened, said nothing.

"We have a pressing need for a leader," Steiner continued. "Our
behavior cannot be chaotic. The leader must plan for us, and we must
be prepared to carry out those plans with no hesitation. We must have
faith in our leader."

Teejay joined them, grinning. "Thank you, Mr. Steiner. There was a time
not long ago when what you've just finished saying would have meant
more to me than anything. Literally, more than anything. But would you
think it strange if you hear that I don't think that now?"

"What do you mean?" Steiner demanded.

"I'm a twenty-second century female, strong as a man and proud of it.
_Too_ proud, Mr. Steiner, for I've spent my whole life trying to prove
it. Plenty of men have cursed me for it, I'll bet, and I guess they
were right.

"So I don't want that job you offer. It took a kind of free-for-all
brawl to make me realize it, but a woman's still a woman, and that's
one thing I had to learn. I fought your Captain Barling and I beat him.
Probably, I could do it again. But I--well, I was fighting with Captain
Barling and saying to myself all the time, 'This is stupid. What are
you--a girl--doing this for? Don't you know you shouldn't go around
fighting like a man?'" Steve noticed in the dim light that Teejay had
begun to blush. "I hate to bare my life before you like this, Mr.
Steiner, but the way it adds up I've suddenly found I've had enough of
fighting and galavanting around. So the answer is no: I won't be your
captain. The way I feel now, I can't be."

"Where does that leave us?" Steiner asked her sullenly. "We don't think
Captain Barling can do the job, whatever the job turns out to be. It's
one thing to serve on a largely automatic ship under Captain Barling,
but another thing to have to take his orders here--wherever we are."

"May I make a suggestion?" Teejay asked. And, after Steiner nodded and
most of the men grumbled their assent: "There are two men here who can
lead us the way we should be led. One is Kevin McGann, Exec of the
_Gordak_; the other is Steve Stedman."

A stir of surprise passed among the men. It was one thing to offer
their allegiance to the Captain of another ship--and an unusual thing
at that--but quite another to offer it to a couple of men they hardly
knew. The men began heated discussions once more, louder this time, and
Teejay drew Steve off into a corner.

"Does that surprise you?"

"It sure does, Teejay. On both counts. But I'll tell you this: I think
I could like you a lot better in your new role, and--Teejay?"

"What?" Her voice was soft and he felt her hand snuggle into his.

"I--I like you plenty right now." He slid his arms around her
waist, drew her toward him, one small part of his mind expecting a
roundhouse right-handed wallop from the old Teejay. But she merely
sighed contentedly and slipped her arms around his neck. He kissed
her--tentatively at first--then long and deep, and Teejay's eyes were
all aglow when he finished.

"You lug," she said, "if you didn't do something like that, and soon, I
was going to be an Amazon just once more to make you do it."

Someone--Steve saw it was Steiner--stood before them clearing his
throat. "Captain Moore?"

"Yes?" Teejay hardly saw him.

"The men have decided to accept your recommendation. McGann and Stedman
it is, Captain Moore. They bark and we'll jump. And we'll be hoping
something comes of it."

"If it's at all possible, they'll get us out of here," Teejay
predicted, and squeezed Steve's hand.

"Any orders, sir?" Steiner looked at Steve.

"Umm-mm, no. Except that we'd like to have this corner to ourselves for
a while."

"Done," said Steiner, smiling and striding away.

"I have one order," Kevin called out loudly, and silence fell on the
room quite abruptly. "Let's all get the hell to sleep before we're too
tired to do anything when morning comes."

       *       *       *       *       *

A purple-blue dawn crept in through the two small windows, bringing
strange bird-sounds with it. Steve was stiff and chilled and he'd slept
badly on the hard stone floor. The groans and frowns all around the
room showed him he wasn't the only one. Teejay slept like a baby, the
cape wrapped about her, and she didn't arise until one of the men began
to bang on the stone and metal door.

"Is it morning?" said Teejay, coming into Steve's arms almost before
she was fully awake. "I had the nicest dreams, darling!"

Abruptly, Steve whirled away from her. The door had begun to creak in
ponderously on little-used hinges.

An anthrovac bent and came within the chamber, bearing a bath-tub-sized
bowl of what looked like hot, steaming cereal. It was deposited near
the table, along with a dozen or so stone spoons. Foolishly, one of
the men darted for the doorway. Reaching out with a long, hairy arm,
the anthrovac scooped him up by the scruff of the neck and flung him
back inside. He got to his feet with a nasty gash on his forehead which
Teejay bandaged with a strip of cloth ripped from the hem of her black
cape.

The spoons were passed around after that, and the men of the _Frank
Buck_ dug into the gruel with gusto. It had been fifteen hours since
any of them had eaten and surprisingly, the gruel turned out to be
quite palatable, with an appealing, nut-like flavor.

The anthrovac waited fifteen minutes, then lifted the huge bowl and
departed with it. But the door didn't close fully.

Charlie Stedman came through it.

"Good morning," he said. "We're a little late, and we'll have to hurry
if we want to reach the bazaar in time for opening."

"Are you sure we want to?" Kevin demanded sarcastically.

And Steiner suggested: "Maybe you'd like to answer a few questions
first."

"Sure." This was Teejay. "About a thousand questions."

It was as if the man hadn't heard them at all. "Outside a vehicle
awaits you. There is room for all, provided each man occupies one of
the squares you will find marked off on the floor. Let's go."

Angry, sullen, but still thoroughly bewildered, the men trooped outside.

The vehicle was a sort of bus, although the noise of a gasoline engine
or the purring of a fission engine would have shocked Steve here on
the world called Uashalume. As it turned out, the bus started with a
whining whistle which quickly climbed to the super-sonic and faded
beyond the level human ears could reach. Within the vehicle there were
no seats, but the floor had been divided into two-foot squares, a thin
white line marking off each box. When each man had occupied his square,
the bus slipped away from the squat building and was soon streaking
down the roadway at a good clip.

Steve saw other buildings, most of them squat and shapeless. And now,
with the coming of daylight, he could see some of the inhabitants
of Uashalume. He'd steeled himself for it. He hadn't expected human
beings. Any variety of six-legged, multi-tentacled, bug-eyed creatures
would have been strictly in order.

He gasped.

He got more than he bargained for. Hardly two of the creatures gazing
in at them were alike! The differences were not those you might expect
to find among the members of a particular species. The differences were
_extreme_.

A furry thing hovered alongside the open-windowed bus on six
gauze-like wings.

Multiple eyes stared up at them out of a pool of amorphous protoplasm.

A bony, stick-like creature with four arms and one cyclopean eye
covering almost its entire head peered at them.

An ecto-skeletoned monstrosity made clicking noises as they passed.

Big horrors and little horrors.

Steve found himself laughing harshly. What did all his knowledge of
Extra-terrestrial zoology amount to now? Extra-terrestrial--that meant
the Solar System, one tiny, inconsequential corner of a great galaxy.
But here, here on Uashalume, denizens of a hundred Solar Systems might
have been gathered.

Why?

Such utterly different creatures--each conforming to a particular
environmental niche--would not be found together. Unless someone had
probed the depths of space for life-forms that might all be capable
of surviving on Uashalume, as, indeed, humans could survive there!
But why? The question returned, taunted him. Again, such a gathering
wouldn't be out of direct choice. If each of the creatures seemed so
completely strange, so horrible, so ludicrous to human eyes--they
probably appeared that way to one another as well.

Steve wondered how some of them might describe the obnoxious,
featherless, hairless bipeds which walked upright on two limbs and
carried two other limbs for more varied purposes than walking. Bipeds
which called themselves humans. And that, precisely, was the point.
Such a gathering stemmed from no natural cause. Such a gathering had
been imposed arbitrarily, but for what purpose? And what, if anything,
did the bazaar have to do with it? A bazaar of the worlds, bringing
together for trade, creatures of every form and size and color? Steve
doubted that somehow, for the bazaar would lack a universal means
of exchange, and even if barter were resorted to, how could totally
alien life-forms assess the value of completely foreign produce? They
couldn't.

That left Steve with nothing but a lot of half-formed questions and no
answers at all.

He had a hunch he'd begin to get some answers when the bus reached its
destination. As with the inhabitants of Uashalume, he was to get more
than he bargained for.

       *       *       *       *       *

They milled about in confusion on a large raised platform under the
blue sun. A sea of impossible creatures rolled and seethed on all sides
of them, shutter-eyes, pin-hole eyes, simple light-sensitive receptors,
multiple-tube eyes--hundreds of varieties all intent upon them.

Steve heard voices around him on the platform, confused, alarmed.
"What's happening?"

"This place looks like an auction block!"

"Look at those creatures, will you?"

"Are we for sale or something?"

The human voices faded into a meaningless babble. Someone else was
speaking, but not aloud. It was like Charlie Stedman's voice, that
day on Ganymede. Steve heard it inside his head and this time--because
they all stood about more bewildered than ever--he knew that the _Frank
Buck_'s crew heard it too.

"Friends of Uashalume," the voice purred mentally, "here, at opening
day of the bazaar, we have a most unusual treat. Most unusual. Two of
us, as you know, have already tested the models in question, and we
find them entirely satisfactory."

Charlie Stedman and LeClarc stepped forward, bowed.

"For the rest of you, one hundred choice specimens! We set no
fixed price, but let this be said about the new garments. They are
unspoiled, virgin material; they've not been used before. You'll
find them stimulating for that reason alone, I'm sure. As for the
vital statistics, they vary in height from three and a half to five
_klars_; in weight from fifteen to twenty-nine _jarons_; they are a
bisexual lot, although only one female of the species is present; their
intellectual capacity is on the seventh level, their better minds can
attain to problems of relativity and universal field; emotionally, they
have twice the range of any previous garment!"

The voice paused significantly, permitted that point to sink in. "Yes,
twice the range. We none of us have ever experienced such strong, vital
emotions. Can you imagine, twice the emotional range of the _scouradi_
of Deneb XIX! It means a new way of life for those among us who select
some of these humans for their own.

"Now, the auction-master will please step forward."

"We _are_ for sale," Steiner gasped.

It was Charlie Stedman who came to the fore, climbing the auction-block
and looking around him. After a time, he singled out Steiner and pulled
the man forward by an elbow. "The first specimen is typical," he droned
in English, and Steve figured he spoke mentally to the assembled
throngs, reeling off the height, weight, and other vital statistics for
Steiner. Finally: "What am I bid?"

Mental voices sang out, one after another:

"Three _char_!"

"Four."

"Six."

"Ten _char_."

"Ten?" The man who was Charlie Stedman laughed. "Ten char indeed! One
hundred is not enough."

The bidding continued, became hot, became a contest between two mental
voices. Steiner went for seventy-four _char_, whatever a _char_ was.

They took him down and carted him away, struggling. It looked like an
ugly scene would develop, for a score of men surged toward the front
of the block angrily. But some of the creatures held what looked like
strange, possibly lethal weapons, and Kevin growled: "Not now! There's
no sense getting all of us killed. Relax, and we'll see."

Grumbling, the men subsided, and Kevin turned to Steve: "If this isn't
the damndest cosmic joke of all."

"What do you mean?"

"We're hunters, big game hunters. We go out into space to hunt for
specimens, only this time we've become specimens ourselves! This time
we weren't the hunters, but the quarry!"

The auction continued, and one by one the men were sold. Once one
of them, a radar technician, bolted and ran. He was cut down quite
efficiently by one of the hand-weapons and Charlie Stedman asserted it
was a pity one of the specimens had been lost. "Keep your tempers,"
Kevin said grimly as a wave of anger washed over the auction block.
"I don't like it any more than you do, but we won't fight until we
understand--and then perhaps we'll have a chance."

       *       *       *       *       *

When half the men had been taken, Charlie Stedman reached for Teejay
and dragged her forward. "This," he said, "is the female of the
species. You will notice the long hair atop her head and the twin
out-thrust developments of the upper ventral region; these are the
marks of distinction. And for two reasons we will demand a special
price for the female.

"First, we are primarily interested in these humans for emotion.
Stronger garments we have, and garments which live longer. But none
attain to the human emotional level. And, among the humans, the female
is capable of stronger surges of emotion, perhaps because in general
she is physically weaker and must compensate for it, although, from
what I've seen, this particular specimen is a physical match for the
others.

"Second, one specific high degree of emotion is possible only when a
male and a female are in one another's presence. Therefore, whichever
one of you owns the female can be certain of that added stimulus, and,
as a consequence, certain of a more satisfactory garment from the
emotional point of view. Now, what am I offered?"

Teejay went for three hundred _char_.

Kevin had to circle Steve's body with his huge arms and hold him firm
as they took Teejay away. He'd found the woman quite suddenly, and he
loved her all the more for it. His potential worst enemy had become
his lover. And now, brief hours later she was taken from him, perhaps
forever. "Let go of me! Get your filthy hands off me. That's Teejay
they're taking! Teejay!"

"And they'll take you too. But you're going alive, not dead. Stand
still and let them get on with this."

"Don't you realize what they've been talking about?" Steve shouted his
rage. "They'll _wear_ us, like clothing. They'll get inside our brains
and share our bodies with us, like they've done with all these other
creatures. Did you think these monsters were all native to Uashalume? I
wouldn't be surprised if none of them was. They've all been taken, as
we have, from their own worlds. They all live here--as clothing. Maybe
the masters don't have physical form at all, maybe they're just mental
essence.

"And all they want to do is run the gamut of our emotions. They know
how to play with emotions, too. Remember the Ganymede-fear, Kevin?"

"I remember, boy." Kevin still held him.

"Well, that was their work. Probably, Ganymede was their base in our
Solar System, although it's possible they first got into LeClarc's
brain on Mercury. And Kevin, all those theories you had were right!"

"Yes, I know. And sub-space--"

"The hell with that. They're taking Teejay and they may take all of us
and spread us out all over the face of this world. We'll never find
each other. We'll--"

"You're next, Steve Stedman." It was Charlie's voice, and Steve felt
Kevin release him with a word of warning, felt himself drawn to the
front of the block. Somehow, he found he was incredibly objective as
the bidding began. He was claimed for one hundred fifty _char_ and led
away by a creature with a stilt-like body and six arms. Or rather, he
thought, that was the garment. But the real creature--the mental entity
within it--had grown tired of last year's cloak, and Steve was to take
its place.

Moments later, Steve's buyer whisked him away in a smaller version of
the bus that had taken the _Frank Buck_'s crew to the bazaar. On the
outskirts of the city, the car stopped. Steve climbed out, followed
the stilt-figure up a flight of stairs as a round, fat, furry creature
bounced up behind him with a weapon.

Inside, the place looked like a laboratory. And at the center of the
room squatted a great round tank, large enough to hold a man. A green
liquid boiled within it, but somehow Steve got the impression of
boiling without much heat. He became absorbed in the idea, reached up
over the lip of the tank to verify it on a thoroughly peculiar impulse.

Something struck him from behind. He staggered to his knees and tried
to keep his eyes opened. The hard stone floor slammed against his face
as he lost consciousness.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was floating, and when he could see again, a murky green haze
surrounded him.

_Floating, completely submerged!_

He felt no desire to breathe. He did not have to breathe at all. It was
as if his life had been suspended completely, as if there was no need
for his body to carry out its normal functions. But he wasn't dead. He
could open his eyes and stare at the green liquid, and he could think.

And after a time, vague forms appeared outside. He saw the walls of the
laboratory and the shining instruments--through green murk. And he saw
something else moving about, a shadowy form. The stilt-like creature?

Abruptly, sharp pain lanced from the front of his skull to the back.
Briefly. And it did not repeat itself.

A voice whispered, "You are struggling. Do not struggle, for it can
only prolong the inevitable. Transfer takes time, of course; but the
longer it takes the more unpleasant it will be for you."

"Go to hell."

It was then that the pain came back--stronger. And something almost
physical pushed in at his mind, something ugly, unclean, wet with a
damp, chilling moisture which brought twinges of fright. _Like the
Ganymede-fear, but more intense._

"To struggle is useless."

The wet feeling, like fingers now, fingers which oozed slime, clung to
his brain, probed it, bore inward.

"Why struggle? I think you will make a good fit."

"Go away. Damn you, go away!"

"I see the auction-master was right. Emotionally, you are strong."

The fingers departed, came back again, more insistent. No longer wet,
they were digits of fire now, burning, burning.

Steve screamed soundlessly and fainted.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Steve came to, he was outside the tank. He was tired and did
not feel like walking. Nevertheless, he walked. At first he did not
understand. He thought: _I will sit down and rest._

His body failed to obey, continued walking.

"We share this body," the voice whispered to him, within his skull.
"You are merely an observer as long as I am awake. I am in control.
Henceforth, I dwell in this body."

"I want to sleep."

"You will learn that your mind can sleep while your body does not. And
the body interests me, human. The body is capable of strong emotion. I
want to feel that emotion."

The place, Steve realized later, was a sort of proving-grounds. He felt
himself walking, walking. He reached the edge of a cliff, stared down
from giddy heights. He felt himself teetering on the edge, saw jagged
rocks far below him. He jumped. He did not want to, but he jumped.

"We'll be killed!" he cried, icy fear making his heart pound.

"That is fear," said the voice in his skull. "That is wonderful fear.
So strong--"

Something cushioned their fall, slowly. It _was_ that, Steve knew.
_Their_ fall, not his alone. For the creature shared it with him.

He tumbled, but slowly, like a feather, like a wraith of fog. He
alighted on the rocks with hardly a jar, cushioned by some advanced
application of a force-field. A large cube of metal was there to convey
them to the top once more.

After that, he became giddy. He did not know why, but the impulse to
laugh was too strong to resist. He laughed until it grew painful,
laughed until the tears came to his eyes.

"That is joy," said the voice. "I can instill joy in you. But the way
you express it, that is unique. More!"

And Steve's laughter bubbled up insanely again. The creature was
wrong--not joy. Hysteria, more nearly. Unused to emotions, the creature
could not tell them apart.

Something grabbed his arms and held it. A giant vise which could crush
and twist. He saw nothing, realized that it was some mental trick--but
thoroughly effective. His arm was being wrenched from its socket,
slowly, terribly.

He clenched his teeth, groaned. From somewhere far off, the voice
laughed calmly. "I like that. Oh yes, I do. I like your reaction to
pain."

An intense loathing he had never before experienced took hold of him.
At first he thought it was another trick, but he could sense alarm in
the creature which shared him. The loathing, then, was his body's
reaction to its parasite. Almost, he could feel the creature squirming,
and he gave free reign to the emotion.

"Stop!" The voice was strident, alarmed.

_I hate you_, Steve thought intensely. _I hate you._

"Stop! I warn you, you will kill us with that, or drive us insane."

Vertigo followed the loathing as the creature fought back. Steve was
tired, suddenly more tired than he'd ever been. He sank back into
blackness, knew even as his senses fled that his mind alone would
sleep, not his body. With two minds, the body would not sleep at
all--and in a matter of months it would perish of fatigue. But the
creature within him feared his hatred, and that he must remember.

       *       *       *       *       *

The days followed each other in a slow, tortuous procession. Nothing
seemed to satiate the parasite, for each day it strove for new
emotions, and after a time Steve learned he could frustrate it by
regarding everything as unreal, imaginative, non-existent.

Sometimes, the guest slept when the host did not. At such times,
Steve found, he had freedom of a sort. His field of action was not
circumscribed in any way except that violent activity would awaken the
parasite. Steve toyed with his freedom, timorously at first, then grew
more confident. He played with it, basked in it after steady days of
control. He even discovered he could use the telepathic abilities of
his uninvited mental guest.

He missed Teejay, wondered about her, longed for her. His astonishment
was so extreme when he first heard her voice within his head that he
almost awakened the parasite.

"Steve? Steve, is that you?"

"Teejay--"

"I've been trying to reach you. When these creatures sleep, we can use
_their_ minds."

"Then you're all right?"

"I'm as all right as can be expected, Steve. But they've been running
me through all sorts of emotional mazes. My clothing is torn and they
don't care about it. My skin is torn and bruised. They don't care
about that, either. They'll run us down. Did you notice all the other
creatures here? Some of their bones are broken--if they have bones--and
they've never been set. They're bruised and bloody and infected and the
parasites don't care! Why should they, they can get new bodies? But
Steve--oh, Steve, I've never felt so unclean in all my life and it's
just as if I've been defiled and--"

"Take it easy, Teejay. Thinking like that won't help."

"I hate them. Oh, I hate them. I--"

"Listen. I want you to concentrate like that. Hate weakens them.
Remember how the animals aboard the _Frank Buck_ died? Well, since our
emotions are so much stronger than the parasites, maybe, maybe--"

"You mean it could work in reverse?"

"I don't know."

"You want me to try, darling?"

"Yes--no! We can't do it now. If it works, we'd still be leaving a
hundred men here. They're doomed, Teejay. We're all doomed unless
we can do something about it, and soon. But at night they sleep.
Yeah, they sleep at night! If we can contact the others, and make
a concentrated effort of it, using the telepathic powers of the
parasites--"

"Shh! That's enough, Steve. My friend here is getting up. I can feel
him stirring inside my head. Shh, later!"

At the end, hope had made Teejay her old spunky self again. But when
Steve's own master awakened, that hope seemed mighty slim indeed.

Each night they managed to contact two or three of the others, and the
word was supposed to be passed on. Finally, it was arranged. The night
for action was decided upon, and for some few of them it would be a
gamble, for there was no guarantee that all the parasites would be
asleep. Once the attempt was made, however, there would be no turning
back. Whoever was left behind--was left behind.

Provided the plan worked at all.

       *       *       *       *       *

The creature was asleep again.

"I hate you," Steve said quietly.

Silence.

"_I hate you._" He thought it now, thought it with all his being--and
somehow he could sense the thought was being reinforced as scores of
men concentrated on it around the city. The mind within him stirred
sluggishly, but he pushed it under again. Hate, hate, hate.

Hadn't the creature said it could kill them both? A gamble. Everything
was a gamble. Naturally the parasite would say that.

Steve began to sweat, physically. He was weak and the muscles of his
arms and legs trembled. His mind found the strange telepathic channel
of the parasite, traveled inward along it--with hatred. That, at least,
was easy. He did _hate_ the creature so thoroughly and so completely
that the feeling pushed everything else from his mind.

A concert of hatred, all over the city. And slumbering masters who
might or might not awaken.

"Stop!" A clarion command inside his skull. The parasite was fighting
back.

Steve tumbled to the floor, lay there writhing. Two minds fought for
control of his body, and he was being pushed back and out of control.
He got to his feet stiffly, strode to a cabinet, took out a knife. He
stared at the knife, fascinated, pointed it toward his chest.

"One of us must die, human, but it shall not be I!"

He drove the knife inward, slowly, an inch at a time toward his chest.
He felt the point sting, saw a thin trickle of blood. For a moment,
he fought to possess his arms and the knife with them. That was a
mistake--almost, a fatal one.

The parasite wanted that, for, in such a battle, it would win
everytime. Perhaps it could not fight his hatred, but it could fight
anything else he had to offer.

The knife went in, scraped against a rib.

Steve yelled hoarsely, drenched every atom of his soul in hatred.
Slowly, he withdrew the knife, watched bright red blood well up after
it.

Something tugged at his mind, slipped away--first scalding, then wet.
It oozed out, and pain blurred Steve's vision as he tumbled to the
floor again.

When he got up moments later and managed to staunch the flow of blood,
he knew the parasite had perished.

       *       *       *       *       *

Barely sixty of them met near the city gate--grim and weary, most of
them with fresh wounds. Steve's joy was an emotion the dead parasite
would have loved to share when he saw Teejay among the sixty. Kevin
was there too, and Steiner. Surprisingly, Schuyler Barling seemed more
sprightly than the rest.

"LeClarc?" Steve demanded.

"He was the first," said Kevin. "Stronger control, perhaps. He's among
those who could not make it."

"Maybe they're still alive."

"No," Teejay told him. "I saw three men die, horribly. Most of the
others probably did, too."

"Don't you see, boy, we can't chance survival for all of us to seek out
one or two who might still be alive! It wouldn't be fair." Kevin shook
his head grimly.

Steve knew he was right. He was far too exhausted to argue, anyway.
"Then we'll go as we are?"

"Well, there are half a dozen others in the gate-house now, forcing
information from some of the hosts."

"What information?"

"About sub-space, boy. A hunter named McSweeney was possessed by a
scientist of sorts, and he learned the sub-space gear is a compact
little device which a man can carry. They store a few dozen of 'em in
the gate-house, and--hello!"

Half a dozen men emerged from the stone structure, and one of them fell
as a beam of energy seared out and caught him. A variety of creatures
streamed out after them, triggering strange weapons. Soon the fighting
became general, and it looked for a time as though the humans--without
weapons of any sort--would be slaughtered. But Steve grabbed one of
the stilt-creatures, twisted its neck quickly, heard a sharp cracking
sound. The creature fell and Steve plunged down with it, coming up with
the hand-weapon and firing into the ranks that bore down upon them.

As others of the aliens fell, men retrieved their weapons, fighting
back with ever-increased fire-power, although their numbers were
decreasing. And battling thus, they broke through the gate and out
among the purple-misted hills. Hissing beams of energy emitted
sufficient light to see by, and Kevin's voice could be heard roaring
above the sounds of fighting:

"Stick together! If a man's lost in this purple fog, he's done for!
Stick together!"

It was a nightmare. Steve fought shoulder to shoulder with Teejay. Now
that he'd been reunited with her, there'd be no more separation, he
vowed silently. Not unless he died here on the purple world.

Energy beams crossed back and forth as the men retreated, stumbling
and darting among the little hillocks. Time lost its normally rigid
control. Hours might have been minutes, or the other way around. Time
became utterly subjective, with each man living in his own particular
continuum. For Steve it seemed at least a short version of eternity
until they reached the _Frank Buck_. And when they did, dawn was
streaking the horizon with pale blue radiance, casting a deep purple
shadow from the ship to where they fought.

It was Kevin who reached the airlock first, Kevin who sprung it open.
Two by two they filed in, still facing the aliens and firing their
weapons. At the last moment--when fully half of those who remained had
entered the ship--the three anthrovacs appeared, came loping across the
plain toward them.

Steve cut the first one down and drew careful aim on the second. It
wasn't necessary. The third anthrovac abruptly turned on its fellow
and sent it reeling, senseless, with one blow. In the confusion, its
parasite must have been careless, must have relaxed its control. The
anthrovac, which made a habit of miming men, whirled and began to
wreack havoc among the pursuers.

It helped turn the tide of battle, and with Steve and Teejay, it was
the last to enter the ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Twenty-two of us," Kevin said grimly. "There are twenty-two who
survived." They all sat about, nursing their wounds. The ship had flung
itself through hyper-space, now hovered a million miles off Ganymede.

"You're wrong. There are twenty-three." It was Charlie Stedman. In the
darkness and confusion, he'd managed to fight his way back with them.
But why?

"Charlie!" Steve forgot the question. "You're free too."

Charlie lifted a neutron gun. "No. You're wrong. None of us is free.
You'll find a ship has followed you here. And you're going to follow it
back."

Of course, Steve thought dully. Charlie was dead. Charlie could not
return as himself. But they were right back where they started from,
for the creature who was Charlie could force their return.

Kevin stood near the viewport, spoke grimly. "He's not lying. There's a
ship out there."

Schuyler Barling smiled coldly, took up his position near Charlie. "You
all rejected my command once," he said. "You shouldn't have. I had no
desire to come back to Earth like that. I've also learned that I can
share my body on an equal basis with my master, something none of you
would consider. Now we'll take you back."

Almost eighty men had died--for nothing. Steve held Teejay's hand
briefly, released it. One life more wouldn't matter, and if there were
a chance....

"Charlie, don't you remember anything?"

"What should I remember?"

"I'm your brother."

"That much I knew when I called you on Ganymede. But there are no
emotional ties. Keep back!"

Steve took a step toward him. "You're my brother, and you wouldn't
kill me. You can't."

It was wild, impossible, and he knew it. The creature was not his
brother, had not been his brother for years. Yet if some small vestige
of his brother's emotional memories remained--

"Keep back, I warn you!"

Steve could see the finger tightening on the trigger when he dove. His
shoulder jarred Charlie's knees, and they went down together, rolling
over and over on the floor. The neutron gun hissed once, between them,
and Charlie relaxed.

A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth for a moment, and he said,
"Steve." He died that way, with the smile still on his lips.

Schuyler Barling was laughing and screaming, froth flecking his chin.
The delicate balance between parasite and host had been entangled,
possibly beyond repair. Neither could dominate, and the result was a
hopeless, gibbering hulk of a man.

"Poor devil," said Kevin. "He'll get psychiatric treatment on Earth, if
that will help."

Steve crossed to the airlock, climbed into a spacesuit.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Teejay wanted to know.

"You're forgetting about the other ship. We haven't got a blasting
cannon on the _Frank Buck_, and there isn't one down on the _Gordak_,
either. But with no absorbing medium in space, one of these neutron
guns can be a potent weapon." Steve clamped the fishbowl helmet down
over his head and activated the airlock.

Soon he stood outside, with nothing but space on three sides of him.
On the fourth, his magnetic boots gripped the _Frank Buck_'s steeloid
hull as he set himself, ready to fire the small hand gun.

Energy flared brightly from its muzzle, and the other ship, a slim,
sinister shape miles off in the void, flared up with it and dissolved
in a shower of sparks and mist. But the neutron gun had a kick which
dislodged Steve from the hull and sent him spinning off into space.

Through the lock-port, no more than four feet away, he saw Kevin
donning a vac-suit. The big Exec reached out to grab him but his arm
fell a full foot short. All at once, Kevin was dwarfed by the anthrovac
as the big animal joined him, scratching its head as Kevin reached out
hopelessly into space. The gap was increasing.

Did the anthrovac understand? No, Steve thought; an anthrovac could no
more understand than a parrot could actually talk. But like a parrot,
an anthrovac could mimic.

A huge hairy arm reached out into space, the hand locking on Steve's
gauntleted fist. He was drawn back into the _Frank Buck_ and to safety,
and it was many minutes before they could stop the anthrovac from
probing out experimentally into empty space.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You know," Steve told Teejay and Kevin later, "I think at the last
minute my brother understood."

"It looked that way to me, boy," Kevin nodded. "So he died happy. But
there's a lot of work for Earth to do. We'll have to clear the System
of anything that remains here of Uashalume's power. And then maybe
someday we'll have to get up an expedition and clean out that foul
place."

"One good thing came from it," Steve told them. "We've got sub-space
drive now, and the stars are ours." He lit a cigarette, frowning. "But
I think we ought to go easy on our game-hunting, and you can tell that
to Brody Carmical or anyone else, Teejay. Those, creatures out there
were hunters too, you know."

"Forget about the past, will you?" Teejay snapped at him, then grinned
when he looked hurt. "I still feel unclean, Steve. I'd love to sit in a
hot bath for about twenty-four hours straight."

Steve grinned back. "If we were married, I could scrub around your
shoulder-blades for you."

Kevin cleared his throat ominously. "They made me Captain of this ship,
didn't they. What are we waiting for?"

The ceremony was brief, and after it, Steve and Teejay hustled back to
the recreation rooms and swimming pools with a bar of strong soap, a
couple of washcloths, and a lot of pleasant ideas.





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